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Puerto Rico: More than 1.3 million left without power following Hurricane Fiona

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San Juan, Puerto Rico- More than 1.3 million people have been left without electricity following Hurricane Fiona which made landfall on Sunday afternoon.

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Puerto Rico‘s ports have been closed and flights out of the main airport have been cancelled.

In addition, the NHC said torrential rains and mudslides were also forecasted for the Dominican Republic as the storm progresses northwestward, with the Turks and Caicos Islands likely facing tropical storm conditions on Tuesday.

LUMA Energy, the main power utility in Puerto Rico, said in a statement on Sunday that it could be days before power is restored, adding that several transmission line outages are contributing to the blackout.

Power outages have become a familiar crisis for many who live in Puerto Rico. Just five months ago, residents experienced another islandwide blackout after a fire broke out in a power plant.

Some parts of the island still bear the scars of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico almost exactly five years ago, after Hurricane Maria inflicted catastrophic damage to the territory’s infrastructure, which took almost a year for power to be restored across the island.

Meanwhile, many rivers on the eastern side of the island were in moderate to major flood stages on Sunday afternoon.

“Our heart goes out to the residents that are again going through another catastrophic event five years later. The biggest concern is the life and safety of residents,” said Anne Bink, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Assistant Administrator for Response and Recovery.

In addition, Bink said FEMA’s response is dual-focused, including emergency power generation for critical facilities and ensuring that a command and control structure is in place for things like search and rescue, as well as addressing long-term needs citing that lessons were learned from Hurricane Maria.

“We are much more prepared. We have four warehouses now strategically located throughout the island which include commodities, exponentially larger supplies than in the past, ten times the meals and water, three times the emergency generator support and more than that, we are proactively there and well ahead of any storm hitting to make sure that we are coordinating and all of the planning efforts we undertake during those blue skies days can be brought to bear when the rain falls,” said Bink.

According to scientists, hurricanes are becoming wetter because of more water vapour in the warmer atmosphere and rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surges, the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.

 

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Canadian Armed Forces spearheads Ottawa’s post-Fiona response to Atlantic Canada

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OTTAWA — The Canadian military is spearheading federal efforts to support post-Fiona recovery efforts across Atlantic Canada.

Here is a look at what Ottawa is doing to help those affected by the hurricane.

Canadian Armed Forces

The Canadian military is deploying troops and equipment to the region after the federal government approved requests for assistance from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador over the weekend.

Approximately 50 Armed Forces members are currently operating out of Victoria Park Armouries in Sydney, N.S. Their primary mission will be to restore transportation links where needed and support line crews in removing trees and debris.

About 100 military members are expected to provide similar assistance after arriving in P.E.I. from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.

Twenty-five service members have also started working in Stephenville, N.L., where they will assess damage and support local authorities in ensuring the safety and welfare of residents.

HMCS Margaret Brooke, one of the navy’s new Arctic patrol ships, was set to return to Halifax following a two-month deployment to the Far North. But it is now en route to the southern coast of Newfoundland to perform wellness checks in four communities.

The government says the military also has Canadian Rangers on standby on the Magdalen Islands in case Quebec asks for support, and that it is prepared to provide aerial imagery and additional troops if requested by provinces.

Matching Fund

The federal government is matching donations made to the Canadian Red Cross in support of the Hurricane Fiona appeal for the next 30 days.

Canadians wishing to make a donation can do so online at www.redcross.ca, by calling 1-800-418-1111 or by texting FIONA to 20222 to make a $10 donation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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In Port aux Basques, N.L., residents reeling after Fiona destroys dozens of homes

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CHANNEL-PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L. — Jocelyn Gillam knows she’s lucky to be alive after coming face-to-face with the post-tropical storm that destroyed part of her southwestern Newfoundland town and nearly swept her away in a surge of rushing water.

Gillam was standing near her home in Port aux Basques on Saturday morning when a storm surge hit, sweeping her off her feet and dragging her underneath a Jeep as she clung to the undercarriage for dear life.

The 61-year-old said she’d been chatting with family and neighbours when she turned her head and “saw Fiona coming.”

“It was brown, it was white, it was angry,” she said in a phone interview. “You could see she was coming with a vengeance.”

Post-tropical storm Fiona carved a path of devastation across parts of Atlantic Canada, leaving behind smashed homes, roads strewn with debris and hundreds of thousands of people without power.

But few places have been hit as hard as the 4,000-person community of Port aux Basques, where dozens of homes were destroyed and a 73-year-old woman died after being swept out to sea when a storm surge flooded her home.

Gillam remembers feeling the water rising as she struggled to hold on to the Jeep and her brother-in-law fought against the current to reach her.

“He came up but he couldn’t find me because there was so much water,” she said. “I was down under the water so, so much.”

She said her brother-in-law called for help, and he and some neighbours were able to grab her when the water began to subside.

Gillam escaped with only a banged-up knee, and memories she says will live with her “forever and a day.”

“Last night I didn’t sleep a wink because every time I turn over, I could see the waves and then I could taste the water and I could smell it in my nose,” she said. However, she says she’s on the mend and feels lucky that her home wasn’t damaged.

Many in her town weren’t as lucky.

On Monday, residents escorted by provincial response crews sorted through piles of debris in the pouring rain to salvage what they could from what remained of their homes.

One house perched on the edge of the rocks was missing an entire wall, its kitchen table and cupboard fully exposed on the sagging wood floor. About 30 metres away, another house was almost flattened, its roof and side wall missing. Nearby, a stuffed animal and blanket with Pixar “Cars” characters lay under splintered wood.

Premier Andrew Furey visited Port aux Basques and nearby communities Monday and compared the devastation in southwest Newfoundland to disaster zones where he has worked as a medical doctor.

As of Monday afternoon, he said, at least 80 homes were destroyed or structurally damaged in Port aux Basques alone — but the number could rise as officials continue to take stock of the damage.

“For every roof that’s floating in the ocean, there’s a family, there are stories and there are memories attached to that piece of infrastructure, and that’s what’s heartbreaking,” he told reporters.

He said officials were still working with the federal government about where to deploy Armed Forces members and other federal aid that has been offered.

Andrew Parsons, the provincial legislature member for Burgeo-La Poile, told the briefing that the immediate focus of relief efforts is ensuring people have shelter, food and clothes. While an emergency shelter was made available, he said all those who have been displaced are staying in hotels or with family.

The longer rebuilding effort will take more time, and will involve co-ordination and aid from the federal government. “We don’t have all the answers right now, but we’ll get there, and we’ll have everybody’s back throughout this entire ordeal,” he said.

Furey said the government would be announcing a financial support package in the coming days that will help those whose insurance won’t cover the damage.

The full extent and cost of the damage was still being assessed on Monday, Furey added. He said the Canadian Armed Forces were also determining where help is most needed.

Warrant Officer Bradley McInnis was among the first to arrive in Port aux Basques from the 5th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, based in Gander, N.L., to report back to the military about areas in greatest need.

He paused briefly in the pouring rain on a street lined with damaged houses and debris to discuss the early stages of the work. As families passed by carrying belongings, McInnis said the scale of the destruction was only just sinking in.

“Parts of the town, it’s just a wasteland,” he said. “It’s unimaginable to think about where you’re going to start.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

— With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal

 

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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Canadian Food Inspection Agency raises alarm as spotted lanternfly pest nears border

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OTTAWA — The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is asking Canadians to keep an eye out for an invasive bug that could spell disaster for the country’s wineries and fruit growers.

The spotted lanternfly is a pest native to China that has been making inroads in the United States since 2014.

Thus far, the small grey-and-red insect with spotted wings has not been found alive in Canada.

But in early September, hundreds of adults were found in a residential area in Buffalo, N.Y., just 45 km away from the Canadian border.

The reports set off alarms at the CFIA, which in a tweet last week asked Canadians to report any sightings of the pest on this side of the border “immediately.”

The insect feeds on sap, mainly from fruit trees, and can cause serious harm to orchards and vineyards.

“We’re becoming more and more concerned about the proximity to Canada, and particularly our grape-growing industries, because this is a pest that has had significant impacts on the grape and fruit industry in the United States,” said Diana Mooij, a specialist in the invasive alien species program within the CFIA.

The first North American sighting of the pest was in Pennsylvania in 2014, and since then, a tracking program monitored by Cornell University has documented the pest in 14 U.S. states.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware have the most sightings, along with areas in and around New York City. It has been found as far east as Rhode Island, as far south as North Carolina and as far west as Indiana.

The Buffalo sightings were the first to occur near the Canadian border.

Mooij says dead adults have been found on trucks in Canada. She says females lay their eggs on almost anything that is stored outside.

“This is a pest that unfortunately can travel on all kinds of things,” she said. “It doesn’t just travel on plants, it can travel on shipping containers and trucks and cars and camping gear.

“We’re asking everybody to have some increased vigilance in looking for this pest, particularly if they’ve been to areas in the United States where the pest is found,” she said.

Mooij says the insect is very distinctive, with its spotted wings, a pinkish hue when the wings are closed and bright red colouring when the wings are open.

The insects need large amounts of sap to survive. Signs of their presence can include trees with large amounts of sap weeping out onto the bark.

The insects produce a sugary waste known as “honeydew” that attracts pollinators like bees and wasps and can cause fungi and mould to grow on trees, which can damage them.

Pennsylvania says an analysis in 2019 showed the insect could cause more than US$300 million damage to its economy annually.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

 

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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