N.S. premier calls extensive damage from Fiona 'heartbreaking,' says restoring power is top priority
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said damage left behind from post-tropical storm Fiona is extensive and says it is "heartbreaking" to see, during a live news conference in Glace Bay, N.S., Sunday.
"The predictions for a massive storm, historic storm, we certainly have seen that," said Houston during the presser. "Fiona definitely left a mark on the province."
Houston said cleanup efforts will take time, and asks residents for their patience.
"Getting power back is the number one priority right now," he said. "We've had serious issues with communications networks, so just getting roads clear, giving space to the crews to do what needs to be done, that's the most important thing right now."
The premier toured Cape Breton Island Sunday morning assessing the damage left behind by the storm. He said seeing the magnitude of the devastation was shocking.
"The amount of trees down, across roads, across power lines, and just the breadth of the storm. The damage here in Cape Breton, very significant, and other areas, not quite as significant but still, this storm impacted the entirety of the province and neighbouring provinces," said Houston.
"Just driving around and seeing the damages, it's really difficult to see actually."
Houston adds, although it's too early to have exact numbers, the financial cost "will be significant."
"Because the damage is significant. But we have talked to the federal government about the aid program. They'll be there to support us on that, but all of these things, we will figure that stuff out today. We need to get power to people and we need to make sure people are safe. That's the focus."
Houston says, despite the devastating damage, he's thankful there have been no reports of loss of life.
"[And] we haven't had too many reports of serious injuries, and we're really thankful for that, so I think that's a testament to the preparedness of Nova Scotians," he said.
According to Houston, some power crews travelling from Maine to help with Nova Scotia's restoration efforts had trouble making it through the border.
"Once we became aware of that, we alerted the federal government, and my understanding is that that was dealt with pretty quickly, but there was an issue, to begin with," he said.
Power crews from New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec also arrived in Nova Scotia to help where they can. Houston said, during Dorian, about 1,000 military personnel came to Nova Scotia to support residents and help the province where needed. He hopes that number will be the same, if not more, for this storm's cleanup.
"It just speeds things up so much and we need it. We have to get power back to people," he said.
"There's already some deployments happening now. I know that even in the local area here there's been some members of the military doing initial surveillance to come up with the plan... So, it's immediate. They've been very, very responsive and I'm thankful for that."
Also on the Cape Breton tour was John Lohr, the minister responsible for the provincial Emergency Management Office (EMO), Deputy Premier Allan MacMaster, Minister of Public Works Kim Masland, and Brian Comer, the minister of Addictions and Mental Health.
Two local states of emergency were declared Saturday for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Victoria County.
During Sunday’s news conference, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda MacDougall said the states of local emergencies are intended to keep people away from dangerous situations.
"Away from the areas that are really, really precarious. We need to make sure there's priority given to our lines folks, anybody who is in there doing some tree, brush and debris removal first and foremost, and we don't want people getting hurt," said MacDougall.
"So, even taking a drive through Glace Bay, in the hub area, we've got lines that are down and they're active and we don't want people driving into them. We don't want people walking into them... So, this local state of emergency is really important to adhere to right now."
Friday evening, Centre 200 in Sydney opened as an emergency shelter for anyone who needed it. MacDougall says, since then, power has been lost to the facility and its backup system failed.
"So, we quickly went into a mode of working with our community stakeholders at the Coast Guard College and also at Membertou Trading Convention Centre, so we have two medium to long-term shelters set up right now," she said.
There are also ongoing talks with the Salvation Army, according to MacDougall, which is expected to bring in community food trucks. MacDougall says many stores throughout the municipality remain without power.
"So, Salvation Army is partnering with United Way here to identify where the most worst areas are and create that schedule of community food trucks to offer those nourishing meals," she said.
As of Sunday, MacDougall says over 200 residents have been displaced from their homes.
"So, we're not talking about small numbers of people. And unfortunately, as this progresses, we're going to see that number increase," MacDougall said.
According to officials, many gas stations across Cape Breton Island are running out of gasoline.
Jason Mew, the director of the incident management division for the Nova Scotia EMO, says his department is working with Imperial Oil and Irving, who are both sending fuel trucks to the island.
“If you don’t need a full tank of gas, don’t take a full tank of gas. Those fuel proprietors are in the process of supplying fuel throughout the province," said Mew.
Mew is also asking Nova Scotians to stay off the roads as much as they can to allow emergency crews to complete their work.
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