Canada counts damage after Fiona; Cuba and Florida brace for storm Ian

·4-min read

Parts of eastern Canada suffered "immense" devastation, officials said Sunday after powerful storm Fiona swept houses into the sea and caused major power outages, as the Caribbean and Florida braced for intensifying Tropical Storm Ian.

Fiona, a post-tropical cyclone that had earlier killed seven people in the Caribbean, tore into Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on Saturday.

The storm packed hurricane-force winds of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour and brought torrential rain, as well as waves of up to 40 feet (12 meters).

"The devastation is immense in the province," Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said in a press conference.

"So many trees down, power outages... The magnitude of the storm is incredible," he said.

Storm surges swept at least 20 homes into the sea in the town of Channel-Port aux Basques, on the southwestern tip of Newfoundland, officials there said, with Mayor Brian Button describing "a total war zone" in the coastal community.

Some 200 residents had been evacuated before the storm hit, though officials said police and the coast guard were searching for one missing 73-year-old woman amid fears she had been swept out to sea by the storm.

"The woman was inside her home when a wave struck the residence and destroyed a section of the basement. She has not been seen since," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told AFP.

The extreme weather kept a search from going ahead on Saturday, but rescuers were scouring the area from the sea, ground and air for the woman on Sunday, the RCMP said.

Meanwhile, residents were reckoning with the damage.

"Some people have lost everything, and I mean everything," Button told CBC News.

"The sea was taking back the land and we were getting separated. A lot of our homes are built along the coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. Down there, Fiona just wiped out parts of that," he said.

Tempers were fraying Sunday as residents tried to return to their homes -- or what was left of them.

"I know people are showing up at the barricades angry this morning and wanting to move in and go check up on their properties," said Button on Facebook Live.

"You've got to give us a little bit of time... Unfortunately, this is going to take days, could take weeks, could take months in some cases," he said.

- 'Incredible storm' -

More than 300,000 people were still without power across the region Sunday after the storm felled trees, ripped roofs from buildings and damaged power lines.

Nova Scotia premier Houston told CBC the Canadian military had been deployed to help clear trees and roads in the province.

Television images showed a long line of cars and people on foot queuing to get gas for generators in Cape Breton, an island off Nova Scotia, where dozens had spent the night in relief centers operated by the Canadian Red Cross.

In Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown Police Chief Brad MacConnell pleaded with residents to stay inside as recovery efforts continue.

"We ask people to stay home unless absolutely necessary," he told CBC, adding that there's "a lot of devastation" and hardly an area of the city that had not been significantly impacted.

By mid-morning Sunday the storm was over Labrador, after having moved inland through southeastern Quebec.

The country's environmental agency said all warnings had ended and that, after causing more than a week of havoc from the Caribbean to Canada, Fiona was finally set to dissipate over the Labrador Sea.

- Ian to become major hurricane -

Further south, parts of the Caribbean as well as the US state of Florida were preparing for Tropical Storm Ian, which the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said is forecast to become a hurricane on Sunday and a major hurricane by late Monday.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Grand Cayman on Sunday, with Ian poised to brush past the British territory Monday on its way to western Cuba and then Florida by mid-week.

Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday that he had declared a state-wide emergency in preparation for the storm, warning on Twitter that "Floridians should take precautions."

NASA called off the scheduled Tuesday launch of its historic uncrewed mission to the Moon in anticipation of the storm, and US President Joe Biden canceled planned trips to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

Authorities in several Florida municipalities including Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa began distributing free sandbags to residents to help them protect their homes from the risk of flooding.

"It's never too early to prepare," tweeted Jane Castor, the mayor of Tampa.

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