Military begins Igor deployment
Fewer than 2,600 still lack electricity, Newfoundland Power says
Last Updated: Saturday, September 25, 2010 | 5:49 PM NT .
Military relief is arriving in Newfoundland and the lights are coming back on in the wake of Hurricane Igor.
HMCS Fredericton prepares to leave St. John's harbour for Random Island on Bonavista Peninsula. (CBC)
Canadian Forces soldiers have arrived to begin relief work in areas devastated by last Tuesday's devastating storm.
The military's Operation Llama will focus on rebuilding two key bridges to the Burin and Bonavista Peninsulas. The military also has the capability of providing clean drinking water for those in need.
"We understand that there's a great need out there," said Brig.-Gen. Tony Stack. "We're certainly willing to go to whatever means [are] necessary."
"We feel that we have a good handle" on the reconstruction, said Tom Hedderson, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of transportation and works. But he cautioned that the situation remains changeable.
"We're not taking any chances here," he said.
Hedderson said the Fogo ferry MV Nonia has been sent to Placentia with gas supplies for the area.
Food and water are also en route to cut-off areas on the peninsulas southwest and northwest of St. John's.
The Canadian navy's HMCS Fredericton arrived in St. John's harbour around 6 a.m. Saturday. After a brief stopover, it set out for Random Island, one of the areas hit hardest by the hurricane.
HMCS Fredericton will support several specialized helicopters, which are set to speed repairs and work overnight in the island's most damaged areas.
"These assets will support the ability to fly at night and heavy lifting capacity," Hedderson said.
"Looking at the resources that we had — because obviously we need all the support that we can get — the gap that we saw was nighttime, especially as it applies to isolated communities.".
Two more navy ships and at least two Sea King helicopters have also been sent to the island, loaded with generators, fuel, food and water.
The provincial government has also stationed one of its ferries and two helicopters at Clarenville. They will be dedicated to getting supplies to isolated communities on the Bonavista Peninsula.
Lt.-Cmdr. Pierre Babinsky told CBC News the Canadian Forces had been expecting the call to provide emergency relief in Newfoundland.
Military personnel will handle any assignment they are given, from supplying power to delivering supplies to stranded Newfoundlanders whose roads were washed out by Tuesday's flooding, Babinsky said.
Power being restored
Bob Pike of Newfoundland Power said fewer than 2,600 households were still without power Saturday morning.
That number included as many as 1,500 in the metro St. John's area, including "tangly areas," such as Thomas Street in the west end of the city, Pike said.
Many on the hammered Bonavista Peninsula now have their power back, Pike said.
Newfoundland Power cautioned there may be more temporary disruptions as crews try to strengthen lines against coming fall winds but said these should last only minutes.
"Some customers may find their power out … that's a control thing," Pike said.
Politicians tour devastated communities
On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper surveyed some of the worst damage wrought in eastern Newfoundland by Hurricane Igor, which meteorologists now describe as a historic weather disaster.
Harper, who has already offered federal emergency assistance to the province, visited Trouty and Britannia, two Trinity Bay communities that were among Igor's casualties.
Premier Danny Williams, who joined Harper and Senator Fabian Manning's tour, said the level of damage he'd seen Wednesday was shocking, particularly at Random Island, a 35-kilometre-long island nestled into the west side of Trinity Bay.
Williams visited Britannia, where 80-year-old Alan Duffett was swept away to the sea with rock and debris when a road gave way beneath his feet during the height of Tuesday's storm. Duffett's body was recovered Saturday.
"When we finally got down to the area of the island where the gentleman lost his life, that was just a terrible scene," Williams said. "It was completely gouged and torn away."
The Newfoundland and Labrador government is unofficially expecting the tally of Igor's damage to reach $100 million.
While emergency road connections are being made, Williams said long-term solutions will take time. "It's going to be a month, three weeks to a month, before we get all the transportation issues dealt with," he said.
Worst storm in recent era
Igor, which crumbled highways and bridges and knocked out power to tens of thousands of people, left thousands of people still 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."