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It could take months for Canada to restore infrastructure to provinces after Fiona leaves ‘unprecedented’ trail of destruction

Hundreds of thousands of residents across Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Quebec and New Brunswick remained without power Sunday.
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It will take several months for Canada to restore critical infrastructure after the powerful storm Fiona left an “unprecedented” trail of destruction, officials said on Sunday, as crews fanned out in five provinces to restore power and clean up fallen trees and debris.

“It’s like a complete war zone,” said Brian Button, mayor of Port aux Basques, one of the hardest hit towns on the southwest tip of Newfoundland with just over 4,000 residents. More than 20 homes were destroyed and the cost of damages “is in the millions (of dollars) here now,” Button said in an interview with Reuters.

No fatalities have been confirmed so far, but police in Newfoundland are searching for a 73-year-old woman they suspect was swept out to sea.

“The woman was last seen inside (her) residence just moments before a wave struck the home, tearing away a portion of the basement. She has not been seen since,” police said in a statement.

Hundreds of thousands of residents across Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Quebec and New Brunswick remained without power on Sunday. Blair said hundreds of utility crews had already been deployed to restore power.

“When it’s all said and done ... Fiona will turn out to have caused the most damage of any storm we’ve seen,” Tim Houston, Nova Scotia's premier, told the CBC.

Officials warned on Saturday that in some cases it would take weeks before essential services could be fully restored.

Trees were downed, power poles were snapped in half, roofs were ripped off buildings and homes were washed away after Fiona made landfall in eastern Nova Scotia around 3 a.m. on Saturday, officials said.

When Fiona made landfall near Whitehead it was a post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds of 90 mph, officials said.

“It’s shocking the damage that we’re seeing,” Houston said Saturday.

A storm surge of more than 6 feet hit Prince Edward Island. The damage is likely the worst ever seen in the province, and the recovery will take weeks or longer, Dennis King, Prince Edward Island's premier, said.

No deaths associated with the storm had been reported by Saturday afternoon.

Canada’s federal government was sending in the armed forces on Sunday to help clear fallen trees and debris, which will in turn open the way for crews to restore power, Bill Blair, emergency preparedness minister, told Reuters.

The province of Nova Scotia requested the troops and machinery to clear debris Saturday, “and we said yes, and so they’re being deployed today,” Blair said. Other provinces are also in discussions about federal aid, Blair said.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre estimated that Fiona was the lowest-pressure storm to make landfall on record in Canada. In 2019, Dorian hit the region around Halifax, Nova Scotia, blowing down a construction crane and knocking out power. Fiona, on the other hand, appears to have caused major damage across at least five provinces.

In a statement on Sunday afternoon, Nova Scotia Health said emergency departments throughout the province were busy and asked people to wait for care if possible rather than visiting emergency rooms, adding that people with urgent medical needs should call 911. Nova Scotians on home oxygen or who require power for medical devices should go to comfort centers in the event of a power outage rather than emergency rooms, the health agency said.

Nova Scotia officials also announced Sunday that they had canceled public school classes on Monday in hundreds of schools throughout the province because of power outages, unsafe road conditions and a recommendation from the provincial Emergency Management Office, adding that further updates would be forthcoming.

Nova Scotia Power CEO Peter Gregg said that some would be without power for “multiple days.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau canceled plans to attend a state funeral in Japan for former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated on July 8. He said the storm was having a “terrible impact.”

“We’re seeing devastating images come out of Port aux Basques,” Trudeau said. “PEI (Prince Edward Island) has experienced storm damage like they’ve never seen. Cape Breton is being hit hard, too, as is Quebec.”

He said the country’s armed forces would be deployed to assist in the aftermath, and the federal government would be ready to help.

Defense Minister Anita Anand said on Saturday that troops would help remove fallen trees and other debris, restore transportation links and do whatever else is required for as long as it takes. She did not specify how many troops would be deployed.

In Port aux Basques on the southwestern coast of Newfoundland, evacuations were ordered and Mayor Brian Button said “total devastation” was occurring, the CBC reported.

Video from the news agency showed homes being washed away. Phil Boyles fled because of the storm surge. “I took everything out that I could try to keep, and now it don’t look like I can even get back,” he said, according to the CBC.

Fiona had been a Category 4 hurricane as it approached Bermuda.

It caused major damage in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic earlier this week when it was Category 1 storm. Fifteen deaths in Puerto Rico and two deaths in the Dominican Republic have been tied to the storm, officials there said.

The hurricane had been forecast to become an historic weather event for eastern Canada.

In Prince Edward Island, King, the premier, said Saturday that the damage is most likely the worst the province had ever seen.

"It was billed as one of the most severe storms to ever hit our province, and by all accounts hurricane Fiona has lived up to that billing," he said.

He was grateful that there had been no reports of serious injuries or worse, but said "our road to recovery will be weeks or longer."