Canada girds for long haul after historic storm Fiona ravages east coast

By John Morris

STEPHENVILLE, Newfoundland, September 25 (Reuters) – After powerful Storm Fiona left a trail of destruction along Canada’s east coast on Saturday, the focus shifted to massive clean-up efforts, damage assessment and restoration of power and telecommunications services, officials have warned long road to recovery.

The historic storm battered eastern Canada with gale force winds, forcing evacuations, uprooting trees and power lines, and reducing many homes to “just rubble.”

The Canadian Hurricane Center estimated that Fiona was the lowest-pressure storm on record in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadian forces are being deployed to help with the cleanup effort, adding that significant damage had been caused to Fiona and recovery would take great effort.

Despite the storm’s intensity, there were no serious injuries or deaths, which government officials said was due to residents heeding repeated warnings.

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Still, thousands of residents in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Newfoundland were without power and struggling with patchy telecommunications connections, and government officials asked residents for patience.

They warned that in some cases it would take weeks for essential services to be fully restored.

“We know the damage is extensive, probably the worst we’ve seen,” PEI Premier Dennis King told reporters on Saturday.

“Islanders … should know that our road to recovery will take weeks or more. It’s going to be an all-mans-on-deck approach,” he added.

Several university students queued outside of grocery stores powered by generators due to the blackout caused by Fiona. The Canadian Red Cross has launched a fundraiser to help those affected.

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Government officials said the full extent of the destruction would only be known in the coming days and weeks. But with gusts of up to 170 km/h sweeping away homes, bridges and roads, Fiona was a reminder of the damage caused by other storms, including Hurricane Dorian in 2019, which had an insurance bill estimated at C$105 million .

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The chief ministers of the affected provinces told the federal government that they need long-term support in the areas of public and critical infrastructure after the storm ripped off the roofs of schools and community centers, as well as quick help for businesses and families to get back to normal life quickly being able to lead.

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The storm also severely damaged fishing ports in Atlantic Canada, which could hurt the country’s CA$3.2 billion lobster industry if it is not fully recovered before the season begins in a few weeks.

“These fishermen have a very immediate need to have access to their livelihood once the storm is over,” Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs, said on Saturday.

“So this is exactly the kind of work that will accompany the provincial authorities in the coming weeks and months,” he added. (Reporting on John Morris in Stephenville; additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Eric Martyn in Halifax; writing by Denny Thomas; editing by Daniel Wallis)

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