Government officials respond to Port aux Basques state of emergency


Communities on the southwest coast have declared a state of emergency as storm surge from post-tropical storm Fiona hits the coastline, destroying homes and infrastructure.

Provincial Public Safety Minister John Hogan said the provincial emergency operations center has been activated and communications are underway with affected communities.

He urges people to stay away from the coastline and says plans are underway to meet needs as they arise.

He says the situation is being closely monitored and they are doing what they can to restore power and deliver food where needed. The big job for the next few days will be the cleanup with the help of federal agencies.

Hogan says his thoughts are with those whose property has been damaged or destroyed.

“I know how devastating it must be to lose a family home,” he says, referring to the homes filmed being swallowed up by the ocean, “but we can replace homes and we can repair the damage, but we can’t. not repair the lives that are lost.”

He says whatever people need, the provincial and federal governments will be there to help, including helicopters to transport people, food and medicine, and the Armed Forces to help with repairs and cleanup.

Furey on the way

Prime Minister Andrew Furey, who is in Istanbul, Turkey, is immediately returning to the province to assess the damage. He spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who offered federal support.

Federal support

Prime Minister Trudeau says the federal government is there for the many people affected by Fiona. He says an incident response group meeting has been held with federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to support each of the provinces with additional resources.

Municipal response

In Port aux Basques, Mayor Brian Button is happy to see residents responding to urgent calls to keep people off the roads. There was a problem earlier today as people started moving in to get photos and videos of the devastation, putting themselves and emergency responders at risk.

Residents of the hardest hit areas have been told to leave their homes and go to one of the many emergency shelters set up around the city.

The Lion’s Club and Salvation Army Hall accommodate displaced residents, while the Bruce II Arena accommodates families with pets.

Photo via Salvation Army Twitter

The town hall is flooded, so the municipality has set up a command center at the hospital to respond to emergency calls and questions from the residents concerned.

Storm surge has already washed away a number of homes and structures, there are numerous reports of flooding and high winds and waves have toppled utility poles causing electrical fires and sending live wires onto roads and Properties.

RCMP are reminding of the risks people are taking by collecting photos and videos of flooding and crashing ocean waves. They say people are putting themselves and first responders in unnecessary danger.

For those trying to leave the community, Button urges them not to take the bridge or causeway, but head inland toward the highway.

Anyone displaced is asked to call the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-922-9597.

Fiona is not done

The weather forecast says we’re not out of the woods with Fiona yet. Meteorologist David Neal says the westerly and southwesterly winds will ease slightly tonight but decrease significantly overnight and tomorrow.

The storm surge did the bulk of the damage and Neal expects another hit tonight, but not as heavy as the surges this morning.

Water levels will remain quite high as there will be another high tide this evening.

Environment Canada meteorologist Brendan Sawchuk says the damage in the area is exactly what worries meteorologists the most.

Security footage capturing the moment a storm surge crashed into a house and apartment building in Port aux Basques, knocking them straight off their foundations and flattening them, has gone viral.

Emotional Effects of Northern Newfoundland

Fiona’s Fury is moving north with effects felt all along the Great Northern Peninsula.

Parks Canada makes the Woody Point Discovery Center available to seniors in the event of extended power outages in the area.

Area MP Gudie Hutchings reminds residents to stay indoors and stay safe.

She describes the impact on coastal communities as “devastating”.

She has been in touch with Public Safety Minister Bill Blair about support for the region.

She says the Department of National Defence, Coast Guard and other federal departments stand ready to help when called upon.

Minister Jean-Philippe Champaign has also been in contact with telecommunications providers to ensure that communications remain open.

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