Tracking Fiona: Storm devastates Canada’s Atlantic provinces, military helping with cleanup

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Canadian troops are being dispatched to help recover from the devastation of Storm Fiona, which swept away homes, ripped off roofs and cut power in the country’s Atlantic provinces.

After Fiona swept north from the Caribbean Sea as a hurricane, it made landfall as a pre-dawn post-tropical cyclone on Saturday, impacting Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec with gale force winds, torrential rain and huge waves.

Defense Minister Anita Anand said Saturday that troops would help clear fallen trees and other debris, restore transport links and do whatever else is needed while it lasts. She did not specify how many troops will be deployed.

Fiona has been blamed for at least five deaths in the Caribbean, but there has been no confirmation of any deaths or serious injuries in Canada. Police said a woman who may have been swept away has been reported missing in the town of Channel-Port Aux Basques on the south coast of Newfoundland.

Rushing surf hit Port Aux Basques and entire buildings were washed into the sea.

“I see houses in the sea. I see debris floating everywhere. It is a complete and utter destruction twon said in a phone interview.

Roy estimated that between eight and twelve houses and buildings had been washed into the sea. “It’s pretty scary,” he said.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the town of 4,000 is under 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 to attend the funeral of assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“We see devastating images from Port aux Basques. PEI (Prince Edward Island) has suffered storm damage like you’ve never seen before. Cape Breton will also be hit hard,” Trudeau said.

“There are people who see their homes destroyed, people who are very concerned – 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 officials took 100 people to an evacuation center. He said no one was seriously injured.

Provincial officials said other residences sustained significant damage.

More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers — about 80% of the province of nearly 1 million people — were affected by power outages on Saturday. Over 82,000 customers in the province of Prince Edward Island, about 95%, also lost power, while NB Power in New Brunswick reported 44,329 were without power.

Nova Scotia Power President and CEO Peter Gregg said unprecedented spike winds caused severe damage and the inclement weather initially kept repair crews away. He said about 380,000 customers were left without power on Saturday afternoon as a ailing Fiona made its way across the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted that Fiona had the lowest pressures ever recorded for a storm that made landfall in Canada. Forecasters had warned it could be one of the strongest storms to hit the country.

“We get heavier storms more frequently,” Trudeau said.

He said more resilient infrastructure is needed to withstand extreme weather events and said a storm that once happened every 100 years could now happen every few years because of climate change.

“Things are only going to get worse,” Trudeau said.

A local emergency has been declared in Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

“There are homes that have had significant damage from fallen trees, big old trees that have fallen and caused significant damage,” Mayor Amanda McDougall told The Associated Press. “We also see houses whose roofs have been completely torn off, windows smash. There is a huge amount of debris on the streets.”

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said roads had been washed out, including his own, and said an “incredible” amount of trees had been blown down.

“It’s pretty devastating,” Houston said.

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said few communities were spared damage and the devastation appears to surpass anything they have seen before in the province.

Federal Emergency Preparedness Secretary Bill Blair said there was extensive damage to the airport in Sydney, Nova Scotia. He said other airports were also hit, but damage at Halifax, Nova Scotia’s largest airport, was minor.

In Sydney, Nova Scotia, the largest city on Cape Breton, about 20 people took refuge at the Center 200 sports and entertainment facility, said Christina Lamey, a spokeswoman for the area. Lamey said hundreds of people have been displaced in the province.

Arlene and Robert Grafilo fled to Center 200 with their children, ages 3 and 10, after a large tree fell on their duplex.

“We were trapped and couldn’t open the doors and windows, so we decided to call 911,” Arlene Grafilo said. She said the fire department eventually saved her.

Peter MacKay, a former Secretary of State and Defense who lives in Nova Scotia, said he’s never seen anything quite like Fiona, despite having “lived through some crazy weather.”

He said he and his family had a long night and the winds raged into the afternoon.

“We had gotten everything we could out of the way but the house was hammered pretty hard. Many clapboards lost, severe water damage to ceilings, walls, our deck destroyed. A garage I built blew away,” MacKay said in an email to AP.

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