Storm Fiona rips through Canada’s east coast, destroying homes and roads

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) – Strong storm Fiona slammed into eastern Canada on Saturday, bringing hurricane-force winds, forcing evacuations, blowing trees and power lines and reducing many homes to “just a pile of rubble.”

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the storm’s center, which has been downgraded to Post-Tropical Hurricane Fiona, is now in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after racing through Nova Scotia.

After the storm took its toll on Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, it hit Newfoundland, but it is now likely to weaken, the National Immigration Commission says.

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Port-au-Basque, a city of 4,067 on the southwestern tip of Newfoundland, has declared a state of emergency and is evacuating parts of the city that have suffered from flooding and road erosion, according to police, Mayor Brian Patton and resident Renee Roy.

Renee Roy, editor in chief of IF Wreckhouse Weekly in Port aux Basques, told Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“This is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen,” Roy said. Many of the homes are “just a pile of rubble in the ocean now…There’s an apartment building that’s literally gone. Entire streets are gone.”

CBC reported that police are investigating whether a woman was washed out to sea.

“This is hitting us hard right now,” Patton said in a Saturday morning video posted to Facebook urging residents to stay home or evacuate if asked. “We have a fair amount of destruction in the city… We don’t need to injure or injure anyone else during this.”

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Fiona, which hit Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean nearly a week ago, killed at least eight people and caused power outages for nearly all of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million residents during the intense heat wave. Fiona made landfall between Canso and Gisboro, Nova Scotia, where the Canadian Hurricane Center said it recorded the lowest barometric pressure of any landfall storm in the country’s history.

Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Center, told Reuters it appeared Fiona had lived up to expectations that it would be a “historic” storm.

“She seems to have the potential to break the all-time record in Canada, and she appears to have done so,” he said. “We still haven’t gotten out of this yet.”

Storms are not uncommon in the area and usually pass quickly, but Fiona is expected to affect a very large area.

Hubbard said Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island still had many hours of strong winds, rain and storm surge, and Newfoundland’s west coast would be bombarded throughout the day.

While scientists have not yet determined whether climate change has affected Fiona’s strength or behaviour, there is strong evidence that these devastating storms are getting worse.

Hundreds of thousands without strength

Utility companies said about 79% of customers, or 414,000, were without power in Nova Scotia, and 95%, or 82,000, lost electricity in Prince Edward Island. Police across the area reported multiple road closures. The area was also experiencing intermittent mobile phone service.

Mobile and Wi-Fi services company Rogers Communications said it was aware of the outage caused by Fiona, and said crews would work to restore service “as soon as possible.”

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Hubbard said PEI produces more than a fifth of Canadian potatoes and that the island’s potato farms, which are in harvest season, are likely to be affected by the storm.

“It was a wild ride last night, it looked like the whole roof was going to blow off,” said Gary Hatcher, a retiree who lives in Sydney, Nova Scotia, near where the storm made landfall. A maple tree fell in his backyard but did not damage his home.

Hubbard said Sydney had recorded winds of up to 141 kilometers per hour. In Halifax, 11 boats sank at the Shearwater Yacht Club and four were grounded, said Eileen Keane, who has a boat in the club but escaped damage.

Mike Savage, the mayor of Halifax, told CBC that no injuries have been reported so far. Quebec Premier Francois Legault said there were no reports of injuries or deaths.

The storm weakened somewhat as it moved north. As of 11 a.m. (1500 GMT), it was over the Gulf of St. Lawrence about 100 miles (160 km) west-northwest of Port au Basque, with maximum winds of 80 mph (130 km/h) and heading North. At about 25 mph (41 kph), the NHC said.

The commission said Fiona is expected to maintain hurricane-force winds until Saturday afternoon.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday postponed leaving Japan, where he was due to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to receive briefings and support the government’s emergency response, Press Secretary Cecily Roy said on Twitter.

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Reporting by Eric Martin in Halifax and John Morris in Stephenville; Additional reporting by Evlis Rivera in San Juan and Puerto Rico; Ismail Shakeel and Steve Shearer in Ottawa; Written by Steve Shearer; Editing by Frances Kerry, Bill Bercrot and Diane Kraft

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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