Body found as Canada struggles to restore power after storm
Hundreds of thousands of people in Atlantic Canada were left without power on Sunday, and officials said they found the body of a woman washed into the sea after the incidenthouses washed away, roofs torn off and roads blocked in the country’s Atlantic provinces.
After Fiona charged north from the Caribbean, it made landfall on Saturday before dawn as a post-tropical cyclone, impacting Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec with gale force winds, rain and waves.
Defense Minister Anita Anand said troops would help remove fallen trees, restore transport links and do whatever else is needed while it lasts.
Fiona has been blamed for at least five deaths in the Caribbean and one death in Canada. Authorities found the body of a 73-year-old woman in the water who was missing in Channel-Port Aux Basques, a town on Newfoundland’s south coast.
Police said the woman was at her apartment just before a wave hit the house on Saturday morning, ripping away part of the basement. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a social media release that with the assistance of the Canadian Coast Guard and other rescue teams, her body was recovered late Sunday afternoon.
“Living in coastal communities we know what can happen and tragically the sea has taken another from us,” Newfoundland MP Gudie Hutchings said.
As of Sunday evening, more than 211,000 Nova Scotia Power customers and over 81,000 Maritime Electric customers in the province of Prince Edward Island — about 95% of the total — remained in the dark. So are more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick.
More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers — about 80% in the province of nearly 1 million people — were affected by outages on Saturday.
Utilities say it could be days before the lights come back on for everyone.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall said Sunday that over 200 people were being housed in emergency shelters. Over 70 roads were completely inaccessible in their region. She said she couldn’t count the number of damaged homes in her own neighborhood.
She said it was important for the military to arrive and help clear debris, noting that the road to the airport is inaccessible and the tower has significant damage.
McDougall said it’s amazing there are no injuries in her community.
“People listened to the warnings and did what they were supposed to do and that was the result,” she said
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said over 100 military personnel would arrive on Sunday to help with the rescue effort. Schools are closed Monday and Tuesday. He said many bridges were destroyed.
“The magnitude and severity of the damage exceeds anything we have seen in our province’s history,” King said, and it would take a “Herculean effort by thousands of people” to recover in the coming days and weeks.
Kim Griffin, a spokeswoman for Prince Edward Island’s electric utility, said it will likely take “many days” to restore power across the island.
“The sentiment on the streets is one of shock and awe at the scale of the storm,” said Sean Casey, an MP representing Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island. He added that locals are also determined to undertake recovery efforts. After the first gas station opened in his community on Sunday afternoon, a long queue quickly formed.
“You can hear generators and chainsaws all over town,” Casey said.
Emergency Preparedness Secretary Bill Blair said the federal government will also send about 100 military personnel to Newfoundland and Labrador to help recover from the storm.
Entire structures were washed into the sea as the surf raged Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland.
“This is not a one-day situation where we can all return to normal,” Mayor Brian Button said on social media. Unfortunately this will take days, it could take weeks, it could take months in some cases.”
Much of the town of 4,000 had been evacuated and Button asked for patience while officials determine where and when it is safe for people to go home. He noticed that some residents showed up angry at barricades and wanted to return.
In Puerto Rico, too, officials were still struggling to assess the extent of the damage and repair the devastation wrought when Fiona reached US territory a week ago.
As of Sunday, about 45% of Puerto Rico’s 1.47 million electricity customers remained in the dark, and 20% of 1.3 million water customers were off duty as workers struggled to reach submerged substations and repair downed lines.
Gas stations, grocery stores and other businesses had temporarily closed due to a shortage of fuel for generators: the National Guard initially sent fuel to hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
“We’re starting from scratch,” Carmen Rivera said, as she and her wife mopped up water and threw out their damaged appliances, contributing to piles of rotting furniture and soaked mattresses that lined their street in Toa Baja, which was flooded.
Officials across eastern Canada were also assessing the extent of damage caused by the storm, which had moved inland across southeastern Quebec.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said the roof of an apartment building collapsed in Nova Scotia’s largest city and officials took 100 people to an evacuation center. He said no one was seriously injured.
The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted that Fiona had the lowest pressure — a key indicator of storm strength — ever recorded for a storm that made landfall in Canada.
“We’re getting heavier storms more frequently,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said more resilient infrastructure was needed to withstand extreme weather events.