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Canada sends troops to help clean up devastation from Hurricane Fiona

Hurricane Fiona left hundreds of thousands without power in eastern Canada as authorities try to assess the damage.

The Canadian military has been mobilized after Hurricane Fiona left hundreds of thousands of people in Atlantic Canada without power and officials are trying to gauge the extent of the devastation.

After moving north from the Caribbean, Fiona made landfall before dawn Saturday as a post-tropical cyclone, pummeling the Canadian regions of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec with gale-force winds, heavy rain and huge waves. .

Defense Minister Anita Anand said Canadian troops would help remove fallen trees across eastern Canada, restore transportation links and do whatever else is needed for as long as it takes. She did not specify the number of troops that would be deployed.

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Fiona was responsible for at least five deaths in the Caribbean. While authorities in Canada have no confirmed deaths, they have been searching for a missing woman in the hardest-hit town of Channel-Port Aux Basques on Newfoundland’s south coast.

“It is likely that it was washed out to sea, but we have not been able to confirm this,” said Jolene Garland, a spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Canada’s emergency preparedness minister Bill Blair said the damage caused by Fiona had never been seen before and it would take months to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure.

“The scale of what we’re dealing with, I think, is unprecedented,” Blair said.

“There will be what I think will probably be a multi-month job to restore some of the critical infrastructure: buildings and houses, roofs that have been blown off community centers and schools,” he added.

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As of Sunday morning, more than 256,000 Nova Scotia Power customers and more than 82,000 Maritime Electric customers in the Prince Edward Island province, about 95 percent of the total, remained in the dark. So were more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick.

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More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers, about 80 percent in the province of nearly a million people, were affected by outages on Saturday.

Utilities say it could be days before the lights are back on for everyone.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall said Sunday that more than 200 people had been displaced and were in temporary shelters. More than 70 roads were completely inaccessible in her region, which she declared a state of emergency. She said that she could not count the number of damaged houses in her own neighborhood.

McDougall said it was critical that the military arrive and help clear the debris, noting that the road to the airport was inaccessible and that the tower had significant damage, although there were no injuries.

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“People listened to the warnings and did what they were supposed to do and this was the result,” he said.

The disaster prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cancel his trip to Japan to attend the funeral of slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“We are seeing devastating images coming out of Port aux Basques. PEI [Prince Edward Island] has experienced storm damage like I’ve never seen before. Cape Breton is also being hit hard,” Trudeau said.

“There are people who see their houses destroyed, people who are very worried. We will be there for you,” Trudeau added.

The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted that Fiona had the lowest pressure, a key sign of storm strength, ever recorded for a storm that made landfall in Canada.

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“We are getting more severe storms more often,” Trudeau said.

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He said more resilient infrastructure is needed to withstand extreme weather events, saying what was once a once-in-100-year storm could now come every few years due to climate change.

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