Canadian PM promises help on tour of hurricane-hit province

21:10, September 25, 2010      

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured areas hit hard by Hurricane Igor in Newfoundland and Labrador province Friday, promising immediate support to relieve their suffering.

The hurricane hit Tuesday, leaving the Central, Eastern and Avalon areas of the province with the worst damage in their history.

More than 80 communities in two of the province's major peninsulas - the Bonavista and Burin - are isolated and running low on essential supplies with access to emergency services severely hampered by damage to roads and bridges.

Harper offered federal emergency assistance to the province and promised to dispatch Canadian Forces personnel immediately to the hardest hit areas. He was responding to a call for assistance by the province to provide emergency supplies and to assist local authorities with medical evacuations and the rebuilding of critical infrastructure.

Harper visited two of the hardest hit communities, Trouty and Britannia, where he met with families, volunteers and authorities dealing with floods and damage to roads and bridges.

"Newfoundlanders and Labradorians affected by Hurricane Igor will face enormous challenges ahead but they are facing the aftermath of the storm with their characteristic resilience and determination," Harper said.

Meanwhile, three navy ships and at least two Sea King helicopters have been deployed, loaded with generators, fuel, food and water.

A military spokesman said in Ottawa some ground troops also were making their way toward Newfoundland from Gagetown Base in New Brunswick.

Pierre Babinsky told local media the military personnel would handle any assignment they were given, from supplying power to delivering supplies to stranded Newfoundlanders whose roads were washed out by Tuesday's flooding.

But as of late Friday, it was not clear if the military personnel and relief materials had arrived.

Reports said a 90-year-old Newfoundland woman, who was relying on a small amount of food and her kerosene lamp since Hurricane Igor cut off her community Tuesday, had been rescued by a provincial government helicopter, not a military one.

The Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government unofficially expect the tally of Igor's damage to reach 100 million Canadian dollars. While emergency road links are being established, Premier Danny Williams said long-term solutions would take time.

Williams, who joined Harper on Friday afternoon's tour, said the level of damage he saw during a tour Wednesday was shocking, particularly at Random Island, a 35-kilometre-long island nestled into the west side of Trinity Bay.

In Britannia, an 80-year-old man was swept into the sea with rock and debris when a road gave way beneath his feet during the height of Tuesday's storm. Searchers have been unable to find his body.

Igor, which crumbled highways and bridges and knocked out power to tens of thousands of people, continued to leave thousands stranded Friday, with shortages of gas, food and other supplies becoming increasingly pronounced.

"There are no hurricanes/post-tropical events of this magnitude striking Newfoundland in the modern era," Environment Canada said in a statement.

"In statistical terms, this was effectively a 50-to 100-year event, depending on how one chooses to define it."

The Trans-Canada Highway, which was closed on Thursday at two different sections, was open Friday, although motorists were told that travel would be slow near new repairs at Terra Nova National Park, where Igor ripped open a crater on the sole route through the Cobblers Brook area.

All schools on the Burin and Bonavista peninsulas remained closed Friday. Most schools on the Avalon Peninsula, however, were able to open, largely because power was restored.

About 5,300 households and businesses were still without power on Friday morning, although Newfoundland Power crews made steady progress restoring service.

Source: Xinhua


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