‘All hands on deck’: Federal government vows to send aid as Fiona hits Atlantic Canada

As post-tropical storm Fiona walloped Atlantic Canada after making landfall early Saturday, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair says the federal government is localizing federal resources to help provinces in the aftermath of the storm.

Blair told CTV News Channel on Saturday that preparations for the storm began several days ago “in close collaboration” with provinces.

“It’s all hands on deck to make sure that that we recover as quickly as possible and, to that end, we’ve been working very closely and receiving … requests for assistance from our provincial counterparts,” he said.

Hurricane-force winds pummelled Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Îles-de-la-Madeleine and southwestern Newfoundland. According to the Canadian Hurricane Centre, peak wind gusts reached 161km/h over Beaver Island, N.S.

Officials estimated half a million homes and businesses across the Maritimes were without power Saturday morning, forcing municipalities to declare a local state of emergency.

“The cleanup is going to be extensive, and our first priority, of course, is to make sure everybody’s safe, and then we’ll all work together to help rebuild what has been damaged,” Blair said.

Blair said the federal government has been in touch with the premiers of all five impacted provinces and Indigenous Services Canada is working with First Nation communities to ensure support.

The federal government is also prepared to arrange strategic airlift assets for evacuation, armed forces to help with debris removal and hydro repair and services, he added.

“We are having discussions directly with Nova Scotia about the federal resources from the Coast Guard, the Canadian Armed Forces, Parks Canada, and Transport Canada all coming to the assistance of that province,” Blair said.

“We (also) have a Disaster Financial Assistance arrangement with the provinces in the aftermath of these natural events, which is very significant and important that that the resources that are needed to rebuild and recover this.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his support for impacted provinces on Saturday afternoon.

“Our government stands ready to support the provinces with additional resources,” he wrote.

Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are already reporting the detrimental effects of the storm

By Friday night, more than 14,000 homes and businesses in Nova Scotia had been plunged into darkness. Most of the outages were reported in the central part of the province, mainly in the communities of Sackville, Truro and Stellarton.

On Prince Edward Island, more than 1,000 homes and businesses had lost power as the wind picked up across the region.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said on Saturday he requested military assistance from the federal government. Additionally, Nova Scotia has requested the support of the Canadian Armed Forces to assist in clean up and power restoration efforts after the storm.

“Fiona is the most significant rain and wind event Nova Scotia has seen in close to 20 years. Thousands of people are on the ground working hard to assess damage and restore power, but they need some help,” said John Lohr, Nova Scotia’s minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office in a release.

“Through past experiences with storms like Dorian, we know the military makes a real difference in how quickly we can get trees cut and removed, debris cleared and power restored.”

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News’ Adam Frisk.

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