TORONTO — Canadian troops are sent to help recover from the devastation caused by Storm Fiona, which swept away homes, ripped roofs off and knocked out power in the country’s Atlantic provinces.
After rolling north from the Caribbean as a hurricane, Fiona landed before dawn Saturday as a post-tropical cyclone, hitting Nova Scotia, Prince Island- Edward, Newfoundland and Quebec with high winds, heavy rain and huge waves.
Defense Minister Anita Anand said on Saturday that troops would help remove fallen trees and other debris, restore transport links and do whatever else is necessary for as long as necessary. She did not specify how many soldiers would be deployed.
Fiona has been charged with at least five deaths in the Caribbean, but there have been no confirmed deaths or serious injuries in Canada. Police say a woman who may have been taken was missing in the town of Channel-Port Aux Basques on the south coast of Newfoundland.
Raging waves pounded Port Aux Basques and entire structures were swept into the sea.
“I see houses in the ocean. I see rubble floating everywhere. It is complete and total destruction. There’s an apartment that’s gone,” Wreckhouse Press editor and neighborhood resident René J. Roy said in a phone interview.
Roy estimated that between eight and twelve houses and buildings had been swept away by the sea. “It’s quite terrifying,” he said.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the town of 4,000 was in a state of emergency with multiple electrical fires and residential flooding.
When the extent of the damage became apparent, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau canceled his trip to Japan for the funeral of slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“We are seeing devastating images coming out of Port aux Basques. PEI (Prince Edward Island) suffered storm damage the likes of which they had never seen. Cape Breton is also hard hit,” Trudeau said.
“There are people who see their homes destroyed, people who are very worried, we will be there for you,” Trudeau added.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said the roof of an apartment building collapsed in Nova Scotia’s largest city and authorities moved 100 people to an evacuation center. He said no one was seriously injured.
Provincial officials said other apartment buildings suffered significant damage.
More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers – about 80% of the province of nearly one million people – were affected by outages on Saturday. More than 82,000 customers in the province of Prince Edward Island, or about 95%, also lost power, while NB Power in New Brunswick reported 44,329 were without power.
Peter Gregg, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, said record peak winds inflicted severe damage and bad weather prevented repair crews from getting out early. He said around 380,000 customers were left without power Saturday afternoon as a weakened Fiona drifted away over the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted that Fiona had the lowest pressure on record for a storm making landfall in Canada. Forecasters had warned it could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the country.
“We have more severe storms more frequently,” Trudeau said.
He said more resilient infrastructure is needed to withstand extreme weather events, saying what was once a 100-year storm could now happen every few years due to climate change.
“Things are only getting worse,” Trudeau said.
A local state of emergency has been declared in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
“There are homes that have been significantly damaged from downed trees, big old trees that are falling and causing significant damage,” Mayor Amanda McDougall told The Associated Press. “We also see houses with their roofs completely torn off, windows shattered. There is a huge amount of debris on the roads.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said roads were washed out, including his own, and an “unbelievable” amount of trees were knocked down.
“It’s pretty devastating,” Houston said.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said few communities were spared, with the devastation appearing to surpass anything they had seen before in the province.
Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said there was very extensive damage to Sydney Airport in Nova Scotia. He said other airports were also affected, but damage to the facility in Halifax, Nova Scotia’s largest airport, was minor.
In Sydney, N.S., the largest city in Cape Breton, about 20 people have taken refuge at the Center 200 sports and entertainment center, said Christina Lamey, spokeswoman for the region. Lamey said hundreds of people have been displaced in the province.
Arlene and Robert Grafilo fled to Center 200 with their children, aged 3 and 10, after a large tree fell on their duplex apartment.
“We were trapped and couldn’t open the doors and windows, so we decided to call 911,” Arlene Grafilo said. She said firefighters eventually rescued them.
Peter MacKay, a former minister of foreign affairs and minister of defense who lives in Nova Scotia, said he had never seen anything like Fiona, even though he “had a crazy time”.
He said he and his family had had a long night and the winds raged in the afternoon.
“We had put everything we could out of harm’s way, but the house was hammered pretty hard. Lots of lost shingles, heavy water damage in ceilings, walls, our deck is destroyed. A garage I was building blew up,” MacKay said in an email to AP.