Canada is sending troops to help clean up Fiona's devastation

TORONTO — Canada’s military is mobilizing and officials on Sunday tried to assess the extent of the devastation from ex-Hurricane Fiona, which swept away homes, stripped roofs and knocked out power in the country’s Atlantic provinces.

After sweeping north from the Caribbean, Fiona came ashore before dawn on Saturday as a post-tropical cyclone, battering Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec with hurricane-force winds, heavy rain and huge waves.

Defense Minister Anita Anand said Canadian troops will help clear downed trees across eastern Canada, restore transportation links and do whatever is necessary for as long as it takes. She did not specify how many troops would be sent.

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

Entire structures were swept out to sea as raging surf engulfed Port Aux Basques.

“Luckily the weather outside is much better this morning which will give us a chance to look and assess the damage,” Mayor Brian Button said on social media.

“This is not an overnight situation where we can all get back to normal. Unfortunately, this will take days, it may take weeks, it may take months in some cases.

Much of the town of 4,000 was evacuated, and Button said officials on Sunday would identify areas where people could safely return to their homes. He asked for patience, noting that some residents were showing up at the barricades angry and wanting to go home.

Government officials across eastern Canada were assessing the full extent of the storm’s damage after the fierce winds died down in most places. Fiona had moved inland to southeastern Quebec.

As of Sunday morning, nearly 267,000 Nova Scotia Power customers and more than 82,000 Maritime Electric customers in the province of Prince Edward Island – about 95 per cent of the total – remained in the dark. So were more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick.

More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers – about 80 per cent in a province of almost 1 million people – were affected by outages on Saturday.

Utility companies say it could be days before the lights come back on for everyone.

The disaster prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cancel a trip to Japan for the funeral of slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe.

“We are seeing devastating pictures coming out of Port au Basque. PEI (Prince Edward Island) suffered storm damage the likes of which they had never seen. Cape Breton is also heavily impacted,” Trudeau said.

“There are people who see their houses destroyed, people who are very worried. We will be with you,” Trudeau added.

Mike Savage, the mayor of Halifax, said the roof of an apartment building collapsed in Nova Scotia’s largest city and authorities moved 100 people to an evacuation centre. He said no one was seriously injured.

The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted that Fiona had the lowest pressure — a key sign of a storm’s strength — ever recorded for a storm making landfall in Canada.

“We’re getting more severe storms more often,” Trudeau said.

He said more resilient infrastructure was needed to withstand extreme weather events, saying what was once a 1-in-100-year storm could now arrive every few years due to climate change.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall said Sunday that more than 200 people had been displaced and were in temporary shelters. More than 70 roads are completely impassable in her region, which has declared a state of emergency. She said she couldn’t count the number of homes damaged in her own neighborhood.

She said it was critical that the military arrive and help clear the debris, noting that the road to the airport was inaccessible and the tower had significant damage.

McDougall said it was amazing there were no injuries.

“People heeded the warnings and did what they had to do and this was the result,” she said

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said few communities had been spared damage, with the devastation appearing to be beyond anything seen in the province.

Peter McKay, a former foreign affairs and defense minister who lives in Nova Scotia, said he had never seen anything to match Fiona, with winds that raged overnight and into the afternoon.

“We had done everything we could out of danger but the house had been hit quite hard. Lots of shingles lost, heavy water damage to ceilings, walls, our deck is destroyed. The garage I was building blew up,” McKay said in an email to The Associated Press.

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