Aftermath of Fiona: Losses are tallied as hundreds of soldiers arrive for clean-up duties

the canadian press

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2022 at 8:41 AM m. WBS

Last Updated Monday, September 26, 2022 2:47 pm EDT

STANLEY BRIDGE, PEI – Phyllis Carr’s voice cracked with emotion as she surveyed the damage in the historic town of Stanley Bridge, a small community on the north shore of Prince Edward Island.

“It’s very sad for those of us who have lived here our whole lives and our parents lived here,” he said, surveying a scene that has become all too familiar in Atlantic Canadian cities and towns battered and drenched by the post-tropical storm. fiona

“Our life is going to change now around our port, our marina, our fishing community and our fishermen.”

When Fiona left the Stanley Bridge on Saturday, the main road was washed out, debris was strewn everywhere and the outlook for the town had suddenly darkened, mainly due to damage to fishing boats that were picked up by a storm surge. and thrown into the midst of the storm. The way.

Across the Maritimes, eastern Quebec and southwestern Newfoundland, the economic impact of the storm’s wrath is still being counted.

And power has yet to be restored to 266,000 homes and businesses in Atlantic Canada. At the height of the storm on Saturday, more than 500,000 were in the dark, including 80% of Nova Scotia Power customers and 90% of PEI.

Even as crews worked day and night to repair downed lines, some utility companies warned it could be several days before power is restored to everyone.

“We have been able to begin to get a better look at some of the hardest hit areas with drones and helicopters and it is reinforcing the extent of the damage,” Nova Scotia Power spokesman Matt Drover said in a statement Monday. .

Drover said the utility has to deal with thousands of trees on power lines, hundreds of broken or bent poles and streets blocked by debris. He said the company has sent more than 1,000 technicians to the field, including teams from New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and New England.

So far, one death has been attributed to the storm. The RCMP in western Newfoundland confirmed Sunday that a 73-year-old woman in Port aux Basques has died after a record storm surge flooded her home, ripped through her basement and swept her out to sea. Her body was recovered on Sunday. Her name was not revealed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his condolences to the woman’s family during a news conference in Ottawa. He said that he plans to visit the region this week.

During the briefing, Newfoundland MP Gudie Hutchings told the prime minister that the harrowing photos of Port aux Basques do not convey the level of devastation. She said at least 76 houses in the city of 4,000 people had been destroyed or structurally damaged.

“Newfoundlanders and Labradors are resilient people, but I can tell you this has tested each and every one of us,” he said via video link from Port aux Basques. “(But) everyone is coming together to help these people in need.”

René Roy, editor of the town’s weekly newspaper, said the community is still in shock.

“There’s a lot of absolute uncertainty and shocked faces,” the Wreckhouse Press publisher said in an interview Monday. “Normally, when you walk through this city… people nod at you, smile at you, or wave at you. Today and yesterday, it’s just a nod and a click of the tongue.”

The southwest corner of Newfoundland is used to big storms, Roy said, but Fiona’s lashes were unlike anything the community had seen before.

“For the first time in history, everyone in the city feared for their own lives,” he said. “Now, we have 200 people without a place to stay.”

Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Anita Anand confirmed that HMCS Margaret Brooke, one of the new Arctic military patrol vessels, will conduct welfare checks in small communities along Newfoundland’s southern coast.

Meanwhile, members of the Canadian Armed Forces are being deployed to help with the cleanup. Anand confirmed Sunday that Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and PEI would receive about 100 troops each, with some already in place.

Asked if 100 troops per province was enough considering the scale of the devastation, Trudeau said: “If they need more, we’ll send more.”

The prime minister was also asked about past promises to improve the resilience of telecoms infrastructure after cell phone service was severely affected by post-tropical storm Dorian in 2019. Trudeau said the government had worked with providers before for Fiona to arrive, but the storm exceeded even the direst predictions. .

“We have learned lessons from Dorian and we have implemented them,” he said. “There will be more to learn about how we keep people safe, as extreme weather events are sadly more likely in the years to come.”

In Sydney, Cape Breton’s largest city, dozens of people, many of them international students or workers from Asia, have sought temporary shelter at Membertou First Nation’s trade and convention center.

Most of them were forced to flee an apartment building that began to leak when Fiona unleashed heavy downpours, ripping the roof off the building.

“All of a sudden, the emergency crews told us to evacuate the building,” said Deepchand Kumar Medalodan, a 30-year-old hospital worker who was attending Cape Breton University. “We just take essentials like passports and wallets.”

Medalodan said finding a new place to live will be difficult. “A lot of students come here and there are no apartments here.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 26, 2022.

– With files from Michael MacDonald and Lyndsay Armstrong in Halifax and Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa.

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