Search begins for 73-year-old woman feared to be washed out to sea by Hurricane Fiona

A search is under way to find a missing 73-year-old woman who is feared to have been washed out to sea by Hurricane Fiona.

The elderly woman was last seen inside her home in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, on Saturday morning, as the storm pummelled the east coast of Canada, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Moments later, a huge wave struck her home, ripping away part of the basement, police said.

The 73-year-old has not been seen or heard from since.

Authorities had received a report at around 10am on Saturday of the woman being possibly washed out to sea from her home but – due to the ongoing treacherous conditions – they were unable to confirm the incident or send assistance into the area at the time.

On Sunday, officials began combing the area from the air, land and water in hopes of finding the elderly woman.

Multiple agencies are involved in the search, including the Canadian Coast Guard, Government Air Services, Barachois Search and Rescue, Stephenville Search and Rescue and the RCMP Tactical Support Group, while local residents have been urged not to conduct their own searches because of the potential dangers.

In the hard-hit area on the edge of the extreme southwestern tip of Newfoundland, another woman had a narrow escape on Saturday when her home collapsed and she was tossed into the roaring waters.

The woman was swiftly rescued from the waters and taken to hospital, where her injuries remained unknown.

Up to a dozen homes are believed to have been washed out to sea from Port aux Basques, after Fiona barrelled into the area on Saturday.

As locals are now left to survey the destruction to their homes and communities, the Canadian military has been drafted in to assist with the recovery efforts.

Homes have been destroyed near the sea during the tropical storm (via REUTERS)
Homes have been destroyed near the sea during the tropical storm (via REUTERS)

Defence Minister Anita Anand said that the troops would help remove fallen trees and other debris, restore transportation links and whatever other support was needed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who cancelled a trip to Japan to attend the funeral of assassinated former president Shinzo Abe because of the storm – said in a press conference on Saturday night that he had also approved a federal assistance request from Nova Scotia – where Fiona first made landfall.

Mr Trudeau vowed that the Canadian government was “there to support every step of the way” with recovery efforts and pledged that it will match all Red Cross donations for hard-hit communities over the next 30 days.

“The government is standing ready to support provinces with any necessary resources,” he said.

Fiona, which was downgraded from a hurricane to a powerful post-tropical cyclone on Friday, made landfall in Nova Scotia early on Saturday morning before charting a destructive path up the east coast of Canada.

Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec were hammered by hurricane-strength winds, heavy rains and huge waves, which swept dwellings out to sea, tore roofs off homes and downed power lines and trees.

More than 500,000 people were plunged into darkness when Fiona wiped out power on Saturday morning.

In Nova Scotia, power outages affected more than 415,000 residences – equal to around 80 per cent of people in the province, according to the region’s power outage centre.

As of 1pm local time on Sunday, around 245,000 were still without power with officials warning they could last several days.

While no fatalities or serious injuries have yet been confirmed in Canada, Fiona has claimed the lives of at least 16 people in Puerto Rico.

One of the victims was a four-month-old baby who died as its mother was unable to reach a hospital because of roads being blocked.

Fiona was a hurricane when it ploughed into Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe earlier in the week.

Now, almost a week on, more than half of Puerto Rico’s almost 1.5 million customers are still without power.

The situation echoes the crisis residents faced five years ago when some areas were waiting up to a year to regain power after Hurricane Maria.