By John Morris
PORT AUX BASQUES, Newfoundland (Reuters) -Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to visit Canada’s storm-ravaged eastern provinces as soon as this week, as thousands of residents were still without power more than two days after storm Fiona swept homes into the sea and left at least one person dead.
Fiona was one of the worst storms to hit Canada, and government officials have said it could take months before infrastructure could be fully restored. The army has been sent to Nova Scotia to help with rescue and clean-up efforts, with other impacted provinces including Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island being offered federal assistance.
“The storm has passed … and the scale of the damage means that people are still facing a tough time,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa, adding there will be a lot of work ahead in the coming days and months to clean up and rebuild.
“I will be visiting the affected regions as soon as possible this week,” he added.
He was speaking hours after meeting a contingent of Hydro Ottawa utility workers before they left for Nova Scotia, where about 175,000 customers, or about 33% of total customers, are without power.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston announced over C$40 million ($29.1 million) in support to help those who were impacted by Fiona, including C$100 to households that lost power for more than 48 hours and C$250 to households that need to pay for tree or debris removal.
“Nova Scotians were prepared for 72 hours without power … but many weren’t ready for the extended issues that we’re seeing past 72 hours,” Houston said at a briefing.
About a thousand workers were on the ground and more were coming to help with electricity restoration work, Matt Drover, storm lead at Nova Scotia Power said.
“This is the biggest mobilization that we have done in our company’s history,” Drover said at a briefing.
Fiona also slammed into Canada’s fishing and farm industries, smashing wharves, food processing plants and barns that will take months to repair.
Lack of power had resulted in long queues to fill gas at stations that are functioning, social media images showed, forcing closure of many public schools and government offices on Monday.
Port aux Basques in Newfoundland was one of the worst affected by the storm, and Mayor Brian Button, described the situation “like a complete war zone.” More than 20 homes were destroyed and more than 200 people need shelter. The cost of damages “is in the millions (of dollars) here now,” Button told Reuters on Sunday.
“Pictures do not portray the utter devastation in this area,” said Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings. “I have been on the ground this morning and it is heart wrenching and gut wrenching.”
($1 = 1.3732 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by John Morris;Additional reporting by Ismail Shakil in OttawaWriting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker)