Storm Fiona tears up Canada’s east coast, destroying homes and roads

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, Sept 24 (Reuters) – Powerful storm Fiona slammed into eastern Canada on Saturday with hurricane-force winds, forcing evacuations, blowing trees and power lines and reducing many houses to “just a pile of rubble”.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the center of the storm, downgraded to post-tropical cyclone Fiona, was now in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after crossing Nova Scotia.

After wreaking havoc in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the storm hit Newfoundland but is now expected to weaken, the NHC said.

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Port aux Basques, with a population of 4,067 at the southwestern tip of Newfoundland, has declared a state of emergency and is evacuating parts of town that have suffered flooding and washed out roads, police say , Mayor Brian Button and resident René Roy.

Several houses and an apartment building were dragged out to sea, Rene Roy, editor of Wreckhouse Weekly in Port aux Basques, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“This is by far the most terrifying thing I have ever seen in my life,” Roy said. Many homes are “just a pile of rubble in the ocean right now… There’s an apartment building that’s literally gone. There’s whole streets gone.”

Police are investigating whether a woman was swept away at sea, CBC reported.

“It hits us really, really hard right now,” Button said in a video posted Saturday morning on Facebook in which he urged residents to stay indoors or, if asked, evacuate. “We’ve got quite a bit of destruction in town… We don’t need anyone else getting hurt or injured during all of this.”

Fiona, which battered Puerto Rico nearly a week ago and other parts of the Caribbean, killed at least eight people and knocked out power to nearly all of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million people during a sweltering heat wave. Fiona made landfall between Canso and Guysborough, Nova Scotia, where the Canadian Hurricane Center said it recorded what may have been the lowest barometric pressure of any storm to make landfall in the nation’s history.

Canadian Hurricane Center meteorologist Ian Hubbard told Reuters it appears Fiona has lived up to expectations that it will be a “historic” storm.

“It looked like he had the potential to break the all-time Canadian record, and it looks like he did,” he said. “We’re not out of it yet.”

Storms are not uncommon in the region and usually intersect quickly, but Fiona is expected to affect a very large area.

Hubbard said Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island still have many hours of strong winds, rain and storm surges to go, and Newfoundland’s west coast would be pounded all throughout the day.

Although scientists have not yet determined whether climate change has influenced Fiona’s strength or behavior, there is strong evidence that these devastating storms are getting worse.

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS WITHOUT POWER

Some 79% of customers, or 414,000, were without power in Nova Scotia, and 95%, or 82,000, had lost power in Prince Edward Island, utility companies said. . Police across the region reported multiple road closures. The area also experienced spotty mobile phone service.

Mobile and Wi-Fi service provider Rogers Communications Inc said it was aware of the outages caused by Fiona and said crews would work to restore service “as soon as possible”.

Prince Edward Island produces more than a fifth of Canada’s potatoes and potato farms on the island, which are in harvest season, are at risk of being affected by the storm, a said Hubbard.

“She was crazy last night, it looked like the whole roof was going to collapse,” said Gary Hatcher, a retiree who lives in Sydney, Nova Scotia, near where the storm made landfall. A maple tree was knocked over in his backyard but did not damage his house.

Sydney recorded wind gusts of 141 kph (88 mph), Hubbard said. In Halifax, 11 boats sank at the Shearwater Yacht Club and four ran aground, said Elaine Keene who has a boat at the club which however escaped damage.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told CBC that no injuries have been reported so far. Quebec Premier Francois Legault said no injuries or deaths were reported.

The storm weakened somewhat as it moved north. At 1100 (1500 GMT) it was over the Gulf of St. Lawrence about 100 miles (160 km) west-northwest of Port aux Basques, carrying maximum winds of 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) and heading north. at around 25 mph (41 km/h), the NHC said.

Fiona is expected to maintain hurricane-force winds through Saturday afternoon, the NHC said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delayed leaving Saturday for Japan, where he was due to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to receive briefings and support the government’s emergency response, the attaché said. press Cecely Roy on Twitter.

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Report Eric Martyn in Halifax and John Morris in Stephenville; Additional reporting by Ivelisse Rivera in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Ismail Shakil and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Written by Steve Scherer; Editing by Frances Kerry, Bill Berkrot and Diane Craft

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