TORONTO (AP) — Canadian troops are being sent to help recover from the devastation from Hurricane Fiona, which swept away homes, knocked down roofs and cut power across the country’s Atlantic provinces.
After surging north from the Caribbean as a hurricane, Fiona came ashore before dawn Saturday as a post-tropical hurricane, hitting Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Quebec with hurricane-strength winds, torrential rain and big waves.
Defense Minister Anita Anand said on Saturday that troops would help remove fallen trees and other debris, restore transport links and do whatever was necessary for as long as needed. He did not specify how many troops would be deployed.
Fiona was blamed for at least five deaths in the Caribbean, but there was no confirmation of death or serious injury in Canada. Police said a woman who may have been swept away was declared missing in the Channel-Port town of Aux Basques on Newfoundland’s south coast.
The raging waves pounded Port Aux Basques and the entire building was swept into the sea.
“I saw a house on the sea. I saw debris floating everywhere. This is total and total destruction. There’s an apartment missing.” René J. Roy, editor-in-chief at Wreckhouse Press and resident of both, said in a telephone interview.
Roy estimates that between eight and 12 houses and buildings have been washed into the sea. “It’s quite scary,” he says.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the city of 4,000 people was in a state of emergency with multiple electrical fires and residential flooding.
As the extent of the damage became clear, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau canceled his trip to Japan for the funeral of slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“We saw a devastating picture coming out of Port aux Basques. PEI (Prince Edward Island) has experienced hurricane damage like they’ve never seen before. Cape Breton was also hit hard.” Trudeau said.
“There are people who have seen their homes destroyed, people who are very worried — we will be there for you,” Trudeau added.
Mike Savage, the mayor of Halifax, said the roof of an apartment building collapsed in Nova Scotia’s biggest city and officials had moved 100 people to an evacuation centre. He said no one was seriously injured.
Provincial officials said another apartment building suffered significant damage.
More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power subscribers – about 80% of the province of nearly 1 million people – were hit by the blackout on Saturday. More than 82,000 customers in Prince Edward Island province, about 95%, also lost power, while NB Power in New Brunswick reported 44,329 without power.
Peter Gregg, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, said the unprecedented peak winds caused severe damage and bad weather prevented repair crews from getting out first. He said about 380,000 customers remained without power Saturday afternoon as the weakened Fiona moved to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted that Fiona had the lowest pressure ever recorded for a hurricane to land in Canada. Forecasters have warned it could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the country.
“We get more severe storms more often,” Trudeau said.
He said more resilient infrastructure was needed to withstand extreme weather events, saying that what was once a one-in-100-year hurricane might now arrive every few years due to climate change.
“Things are getting worse,” Trudeau said.
A local state of emergency was declared in Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
“There were houses that were heavily damaged by fallen trees, large old trees fell and caused quite a lot of damage,” Mayor Amanda McDougall told The Associated Press. “We also saw houses whose roofs were completely torn off, the windows were broken. There was a lot of debris on the highway.”
Nova Scotia Prime Minister Tim Houston said streets were swept away, including his own, and said “amazing” a number of trees have fallen.
“It’s pretty devastating,” said Houston.
Prince Edward Island’s Prime Minister Dennis King said several communities were spared the damage, with the devastation seemingly beyond anything they had seen before in the province.
Federal Minister for Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said there was extensive damage at the airport in Sydney, Nova Scotia. He said other airports were also hit, but the damage at the Halifax facility, Nova Scotia’s largest airport, was minor.
In Sydney, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton’s largest city, about 20 people took refuge at the Center 200’s sports and entertainment facility, said Christina Lamey, a spokeswoman for the region. Lamey said hundreds of people had taken refuge in the province.
Arlene and Robert Grafilo fled to Center 200 with their children, ages 3 and 10, after a large tree fell in their duplex apartment.
“We were stuck and we couldn’t open the doors and windows, so that’s when we decided to call 911.” said Arlene Grafilo. He said firefighters finally saved them.
Peter MacKay, a former secretary of state and defense secretary who lives in Nova Scotia, said he had never seen anything quite like Fiona even though she had “living through crazy weather.”
He said he and his family had a long night and the wind was blowing hard into the afternoon.
“We’ve got everything we can out of harm’s way, but the house was hammered pretty hard. Lost a lot of shingles, heavy water damage to our ceiling, walls, deck destroyed. The garage I built exploded,” MacKay said in an email to the AP.
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