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States of local emergency declared for Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Victoria County


A state of local emergency has been declared for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) and Victoria County amid widespread power outages, road closures, displaced residents, and structural damage as post-tropical storm Fiona makes its way across the island Saturday morning.

Peter Gregg, the president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, says a satellite emergency operation centre will be opening in Sydney, acting as the second command centre to the one in Halifax.

Island residents are being asked to shelter in place. If shelter has failed, call 911 for evacuation. A Red Cross emergency shelter was opened at 8 p.m. Friday at Centre 200 in Sydney for anyone seeking refuge.

CBRM Mayor Amanda MacDougall says they were unable to open all planned comfort centres -- additional centres added Saturday -- due to damage on sites, including downed live wires. She added many of the centre volunteers are also first responders who have been on the ground since Fiona hit. She says an updated list of centres will be provided shortly, but asks residents to wait to travel to them until given the "green light that they are ready to operate."

Comfort centres are opening when local travel is declared safe by officials.

Cape Breton residents Arlene and Robert Grafilo fled to Centre 200 with their children - aged three and 10 -- after a massive tree fell on their duplex apartment, trapping them in their basement unit.

"We heard a lot of noise outside and then we realized that there are a lot of cracks in the house and we looked outside and saw the tree had fallen," said 43-year-old Arlene Grafilo.

"We were trapped and we couldn't open the doors and the windows, so that's when we decided to call 911. The children were scared," she said, adding firefighters eventually rescued them.

"It is currently not safe to travel. Downed power lines and trees are a significant hazard. Please remain sheltered," wrote Christina Lamey, the communications officer for CBRM, Saturday morning.

"The first responders are really stretched right now. We want people to stay off the roads."

MacDougall says the municipality is littered with "a lot of damage."

"Houses have lost their roofs, there are lots of trees that are down that are causing structural damage, there are power lines and power poles that are everywhere, so travel is very, very difficult right now. Quite frankly, it's near impossible," she said.

MacDougall says it was decided that keeping as many people home as possible would be the safest for everyone.

"There's no place that have been spared. I'm seeing pictures from Louisbourg, on the north side, there are houses that have literally blown to the ground," she said. "We do have a shelter in place for people who need to evacuate. That is in Sydney. We also need to make sure that there are going to be places when it is safe to travel that people can get to."

In a news release sent Saturday at 2 p.m., Cape Breton Regional Police said they were seeing a significant number of vehicles travelling on unsafe roads, covered with downed trees, power lines and other debris.

According to the police force, there were more than 70 roads across the municipality that are compromised and impassable at that time.

"Extra vehicles create more hazards for emergency responders. Please shelter in place and stay off the roads until Public Works and Nova Scotia crews can clean up for safer driving conditions," reads the release. 

During a live news conference Saturday, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage spoke on behalf of CBRM Mayor Amanda MacDougall who could not join the conference due to connectivity issues.

He shared a statement from Mayor MacDougall that read, in part, "The last 24-hours have been surreal. We are still in the thick of the hurricane with wind speeds maintaining significant levels, and our crews on the ground trying to triage emergency situations and take care of our neighbours in need."

"Power outages are vast, cell phone service is now unreliable and travel around the region is hazardous."

According to the mayor, the local state of emergency in the CBRM was declared because of the the downed lines, trees, flying debris and the sheer number of people in need of support.

"We are steadily moving up in the hundreds of people who have been displaced because of the storm. Remarkably, there have been no injuries that have come out of the hurricane so far," read the mayor's statement.

With files from The Canadian Press. Top Stories

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