TORONTO — One day after Fiona wrought havoc on eastern Canada, the full extent of the destruction is beginning to set in.
Meanwhile, at a news conference Sunday, Prince Edward Island officials reported at least one death tied to the storm. A preliminary investigation pointed to generator issues as the potential cause.
The hurricane-force winds, which peaked at about 100 mph in some regions, left more than 500,000 Canadian homes with no electricity, hundreds of thousands of which are still without power.
In the hardest-hit regions, the outages could last for several days. The storm hit Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Quebec and New Brunswick.
“There are likely going to be multiple-day outages for many of our customers, but we’ll continue to work as hard as we can to make sure we safely restore power,” Peter Gregg, Nova Scotia Power’s president and chief executive, said in video briefing Saturday evening.
In Port aux Basques, a tiny town at the southwestern tip of Newfoundland with a population of about 4,000, the damage was devastating.
“We have over 200 residents that were evacuated from their homes,” Jolene Garland, a spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said in a phone interview with The Washington Post on Sunday.
More than 200 homes were damaged, she added, and 20 were wrecked or swept into the ocean by the powerful storm.
Police have opened an investigation into a missing person, after one woman disappeared when her home was struck by a towering wave. The search was initially stalled on Saturday because of safety concerns, Garland said, but a rescue effort is now underway.
Terry Osmond, who has lived in Port aux Basques all his life, said he’d “never seen anything like this.”
As the full picture became sharper on Sunday morning, things in his hometown are “not good,” said Osmond, 62. With such widespread wreckage, he said, “I don’t know how they’re going to start the cleanup.”
Residents are searching rubble for items swept away by the storm, while emergency crews clear debris and block off dangerous zones.
“The magnitude of this storm and what has happened in our community is very, very large,” said Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button in a Facebook Live briefing, adding that the sewage system has been compromised in some areas, and water access is limited. “This could be months.”
Recovery efforts have begun across eastern Canada, and military personnel have been deployed to assist with damage assessment, cleanup and restoration of transportation.
“Our government is standing ready to support provinces with any necessary resources,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a news conference, during which he announced that the federal government will match any Canadian Red Cross donations made over the next 30 days. Trudeau canceled a trip to Japan due to the storm.
“The focus now is really on assessing damage and seeing what assistance is needed,” said Dan Bedell, communications director for the Red Cross, covering the Atlantic region.
About 175 displaced people in Nova Scotia stayed overnight in Red Cross shelters, according to Bedell.
“There are a number of places where homes and apartment buildings have sustained significant enough damage that people can’t safely stay there,” he said.
“It’s one storm that has had impact in five provinces, which is pretty substantial,” Bedell said, adding that eastern Quebec was also heavily affected. “We don’t know yet what the needs are, but we know there will be a lot of need.”
Cape Breton, one of the most affected regions in Nova Scotia, is reeling.
“We’re all seeing the aftermath of it. It is devastating,” said Shayna Strong, a Cape Breton resident. A large tree collapsed onto her home about 5 a.m. Saturday, and “we’ve lost all of our fencing.”
As the storm was unfolding, “everything was creaking and howling, and air was blowing into the house,” she recalled. “Things were seeping in, because the wind was just so fierce.”
Fortunately, though, “the sun is shining today,” Strong said.
Fiona — which is the lowest-pressure land-falling storm on record in Canada, according to the Canadian Hurricane Center — had weakened considerably by Sunday, and is moving north at 21 mph. All warnings associated with the storm have been lifted.