Toronto (AFP) – Hundreds of thousands of people in Atlantic Canada were left without power Sunday and officials tried to assess the extent of the devastation caused by former Hurricane Fiona, which swept away homes, stripped roofs and blocked roads across the country’s Atlantic provinces.
Breaking north from the Caribbean, Fiona came ashore before dawn Saturday as a post-tropical cyclone, hitting Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec with strong hurricane winds, rain and rain.
Defense Minister Anita Anand said the troops will help clear fallen trees across eastern Canada, restore transport links and do whatever is needed for as long as possible. It did not specify the number of troops that will be deployed.
Fiona has been blamed for at least five deaths in the Caribbean, and while there have been no confirmed deaths in Canada, authorities on Sunday are searching for a 73-year-old woman missing in the hardest-hit town of Channel-Port-au-Pasques in the south. The coast of Newfoundland.
“It is possible that it was washed out to sea, but we could not confirm that,” the corporal said. Joleen Garland, spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Police said the woman was last seen inside the house just moments before a wave hit the house on Saturday morning, tearing down part of the basement.
As of Sunday, more than 252,000 Nova Scotia Power customers and more than 82,000 Maritime Electric customers in Prince Edward Island County—about 95% of the total—remained in the dark. So has more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick.
More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers – about 80% in the county of nearly one million people – were affected by the outage on Saturday.
Utility companies say it could be days before the lights come back on for everyone.
Cape Breton Regional Mayor Amanda McDougall said Sunday that more than 200 people were in temporary shelters. More than 70 roads were completely inaccessible in her area, which declared a state of emergency. She said she could not count how many homes were damaged in her neighbourhood.
She said it was critical for the army to arrive to help clear the rubble, noting that the road to the airport was inaccessible and the tower was badly damaged.
It’s amazing that there were no injuries, McDougall said.
“People listened to the warnings and did what they were supposed to do and that was the result,” she said.
Few communities survived the damage, Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said, with the devastation appearing to surpass anything seen before in the province.
Entire structures were washed into the sea as raging waves pounded the port of Aux Basques, Newfoundland.
“This is not a one-day situation where we can all go back to normal,” Mayor Brian Patton said on social media. Unfortunately, this will take days, it may take weeks, and it may take months in some cases.”
Much of the town of 4,000 has been evacuated, and Patton said he has asked for patience while officials determine where and when people can safely return home. He pointed out that some residents appear at the barricades angry and want to return.
In Puerto Rico, too, officials were still struggling to understand the extent of the damage and repair the devastation caused when Fiona struck US soil a week earlier.
As of Sunday, about 45% of Puerto Rico’s 1.47 million power customers remained in the dark, and 20% of the 1.3 million water customers were unserved as workers struggled to reach flooded power substations and fix broken lines.
Gas stations, grocery stores and other businesses have been temporarily closed due to fuel shortages for generators: The National Guard first sent the fuel to hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
“We started from scratch,” said Carmen Rivera, as she and her wife cleaned up water and disposed of their damaged appliances, adding to the piles of moldy furniture and wet mattresses lining their street in Toa Baja, which has been flooded.
Officials across eastern Canada also assessed the extent of damage caused by the storm, which moved inland over southeastern Quebec.
The roof of an apartment building collapsed in Nova Scotia’s largest city, and officials moved 100 people to an evacuation center, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said. He said no one was seriously injured.
The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted that Fiona has the lowest pressure – a key sign of storm strength – ever recorded for a storm that made landfall in Canada.
“We get more and more severe storms more frequently,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
Peter Mackay, a former Secretary of State and Defense who lives in Nova Scotia, said he had never seen anything quite like Fiona, with winds blowing through the night and into the afternoon.
“We put everything we could out of harm’s way, but the house took a beating. Lots of shingles were lost, heavy water damage to ceilings and walls, and our roof destroyed,” MacKay said in an email to The Associated Press:
Associated Press writers Danica Cotto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota contributed to this report.
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