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Ottawa sending Canadian Forces to Newfoundland to help with Fiona cleanup

Monday, September 26th 2022, 11:17 am - 100 personnel and 2 ships at the ready, says MP Seamus O'Regan

As residents continue to sift through the rubble where their houses used to stand, they can take a little comfort on Monday in knowing the Canadian Forces are on the way to help.

The federal government approved a request for assistance by the Newfoundland and Labrador government late on Sunday, which opens to door for Canadian Forces members to be deployed to the hardest hit regions and help out in any way they can.


PHOTOS: Arduous cleanup for Atlantic Canada after Fiona's destruction


Seamus O'Regan, federal minister of labour and one of seven MPs from N.L., said the Canadian Rangers will "immediately assess the situation," and there are 100 members from three platoons ready to help out.

He also said naval ships HMCS Goose Bay and HMCS Margaret Brooke are in St. John's and ready to help if needed.

The federal government also approved requests in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, where the storm also caused significant damage to private property and public spaces.

Damage beyond comprehension, residents say

Canadian Forces members could have their hands full on Newfoundland's southwest coast, where the devastation is still soaking in for local residents, many of whom have lost everything they owned.

It was the storm of a lifetime for people in places like Port aux Basques, which was hit with 134 km/h winds, 77 millimetres of rain and water levels rising over a metre. About 20 houses were swept away, and one woman was killed when a powerful storm surge swept her out of her home.

The body of the 73-year-old was recovered just before 4 p.m. on Sunday, according to the RCMP.

"My heart breaks for the family and friends of the woman from Port aux Basques who passed away when Hurricane Fiona made landfall," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a message posted to social media. "We're keeping you in our thoughts — and we'll continue to make sure you, and your fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, have the support you need."

Premier Andrew Furey called it "gut-wrenching news," and sent condolence to the woman's family and friends.

The trauma is still setting in for local residents, but the cleanup is already underway, with people taking it upon themselves to dig out their own houses, or help out their neighbours.

Simone Rennehan was sifting through the rubble on Sunday, both inside and outside her neighbour's house. She looked for anything that wasn't water-damaged and brought it back to her house to clean. She pulled out appliances, dishes, bicycles — anything that could be saved.

When asked by a reporter why she was doing it, she replied, "Because I'm a neighbour. You gotta try to help out when you can."

simone-rennehan Simone Rennehan was scouring her neighbour's house in Port aux Basques, looking for anything she could clean and salvage for the family that lives there. (CBC)

Todd Anderson was at the waterfront in Port aux Basques on Sunday to take stock of the damage to his parents' house.

The basement was flooded, and the exterior had taken a beating, but he said the house seemed structurally sound. Around the house, however, neighbouring properties had been hit much worse.

"It's a feeling of shock," he said. "The magnitude of the damage is more than I can comprehend right now.… I've lived here for years and we've seen our share of storms, but nothing at all like this. It's pretty overwhelming, actually."

todd-anderson Todd Anderson points to his parents' house on the shoreline in Port aux Basques. It suffered significant damage, but he's hoping it can be salvaged. (Dan Arsenault/CBC)

His parents had been hesitant to leave before the storm, but were convinced by family members to go stay with their son. What they thought would be a one-night stay is now an indefinite relocation until their house can be examined by a professional.

About 200 people have been displaced from their homes, and many of those residents spent the weekend at an emergency shelter set up by the Salvation Army.

Burgeo, Burnt Islands dealing with catastrophic damage

Fiona's intensity wasn't just felt in Port aux Basques. There was also widespread damage in other places along the southwest coast.

Dana Strickland's parents are two of the people left surveying the damage on Smalls Island in Burgeo. They were in their house, watching the storm through a window, when they noticed the front patio begin to get ripped away. Strickland said they quickly realized this storm was different.

"Dad said to Mom, 'We've got to run.' They just ran out of the house. They're lucky to be alive."

burgeo-sunday On Sunday, Burgeo residents surveyed the destruction left by post-tropical storm Fiona. (James Grudic/CBC)

The house they moved into on their wedding day 41 years ago is destroyed.

"They built a beautiful home together, a beautiful life for me and my sister and my daughter," Strickland said. "We spent summers there. Every holiday — Christmas and Thanksgiving. It's where we go. It's home. We've got nowhere to go home anymore. It's devastating."

In Burnt Islands, just east of Port aux Basques, some areas suffered widespread damage. In a small cove known as Fox Roost, multiple buildings were flattened by the wind, waves and storm surge, including several sheds, fishing stages and houses.

The government wharf was also flattened, leaving behind a pile of splintered wood, with just the huge yellow beams that bordered the wharf left intact.

Some residents told CBC News even though their homes remained standing, they were afraid to stay — worried what the next storm could bring.

WATCH: Second major hurricane of the season, may head north into Canada

This article was originally published for CBC News.

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