Three dead and thousands still without power in Atlantic Canada after Hurricane Fiona

At least three Canadians have died and thousands remain without power as the governments of Ottawa and Atlantic Canada continue relief and recovery efforts in areas hit by Post-Tropical Storm Fiona during the end of week.

The federal government is deploying a total of 400 Canadian Armed Forces members to New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to help local teams clear debris and felled trees and rebuilding electrical infrastructure, roads and bridges.

HMCS Margaret Brooke, a Royal Canadian Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel, also departed St. John’s to begin conducting wellness checks in four communities on Newfoundland’s south coast as early as Tuesday.

“One thing that has been consistent in my calls to prime ministers, mayors and MPs is that Canadians support each other and help their communities through this difficult time,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters during an update on storm response efforts on Monday. .

“I want everyone in the Atlantic Provinces and Eastern Quebec to know that we are here for you.

On Monday, there were three confirmed storm-related deaths, including a 73-year-old woman swept away at sea in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.; an 81-year-old man who disappeared from his home in Lower Prospect, Nova Scotia; and one person from Prince Edward Island whose death is believed to be related to generator problems.

Provincial officials said the top priorities now are the removal of fallen trees and debris, to speed the restoration of power.

“The devastation we have seen in Glace Bay and other communities is unimaginable. The stress of the question in everyone’s mind of ‘when does our power return?’ was palpable in the voices and eyes of everyone we met along the way,” said Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston. “Nova Scotians need help. They need it more than ever. »

In his province of just under a million inhabitants, 181,000 inhabitants are still without electricity. School will be canceled on Tuesday and classes at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Education Center will be closed until the end of the week.

It’s too early to estimate the financial cost of the damage caused by Fiona, but Nova Scotia has deployed more than $40 million in assistance to affected communities, from providing grocery cards to income support for hotel rooms to house displaced residents.

“I think it would be fair to say the magnitude of this storm, the storm damage is certainly a historic storm across the province. So we expect (in terms of) the cost of previous storms to be more,” Houston said.

In Port aux Basques, a small town in one of Newfoundland’s hardest-hit areas, there are at least 80 displaced homes, and that number is expected to rise, Premier Andrew Furey said.

Although power was restored to everyone in the province on Monday evening, Furey said officials were conducting a needs assessment and taking an inventory of all affected properties. The number of uninhabitable homes, he added, is expected to rise as structural damage and knocks to sewage and water systems are assessed.

Furey said the province plans to announce a financial package in the coming days to compensate people for property losses, including people whose property was uninsured.

The Prime Minister said that while many displaced residents of Port aux Basques have been able to find shelter with family or friends, this situation will change in the weeks and months to come.

“Being a small community, people have friends and family. My problem I guess going forward is that it only lasts so long. We need to find solutions for the next few months,” said Andrew Parsons, Newfoundland Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology.

PEI’s Restoration Efforts were thwarted by « thousands » of fallen trees, which impacted about 300 power lines, said Kim Griffin of Maritime Electric, the province’s electrical utility.

This resulted in the loss of electricity to large swaths of the province. On Monday afternoon, the company said it had restored power to nearly 10,000 customers.

There were about 90 crews on the road in Prince Edward Island and the company said preliminary results of a helicopter assessment found « no major issues » with the infrastructure, unlike what the province saw inflicted by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

The main challenge is to restore power and, in some cases, to be able to access power lines. Maritime Electric is pleading with residents not to leave their homes unless it’s for essentials such as food or fuel.

« Some of these areas are really taking us an inordinate amount of time to get on site or (to fix) once we’re on site…our teams are begging you to help us out so we can improve our restoration efforts, » Griffin said. . .

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said at least six schools were affected by the damage, while provincial hospitals and offices appear to have held up well. There are 35 grocery stores remaining open across the province and more than 35 gas stations with fuel.

Some of the industries in the province that have been hit hard include mussel and oyster farms, lobster traps, and soy, corn and apple farms.

« It’s safe to say that obviously some people along the north coast weren’t just affected by (former) Hurricane Fiona, they were also affected by the storm surge, » said King said, adding that the cleanup effort could take « weeks and months. »

In New Brunswick, about 4,600 customers were still without power Monday evening and three warming centers remained open, although many closed roads are now accessible. However, the cleanup for homeowners, especially those who may have suffered flood damage, is just beginning.

Officials said there are « reliable indications » that disaster financial assistance needs for the province will exceed the $35 million provided for Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based journalist who covers immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung


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