TRACADIE-SHEILA, N.B. – New Brunswick’s premier said the Canadian Armed Forces have sent in a “recon team” to see how they can help the recovery effort after an ice storm ravaged parts of the province this week.
Brian Gallant told a news conference in Tracadie Saturday that he spoke to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about what support the federal government can provide. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan tweeted that the Canadian Forces is ready to help “Canadians who face uncertainty and distress” in the wake of Wednesday’s ice storm.
Gallant said it’s unclear what help could be provided.
“At this point, it’s all hypothetical. We really don’t know what type of support they would bring in. We don’t know if there would be any type of help they would actually be able to give us,” Gallant said. “Any type of question of what expense is put into the restoration efforts will happen over the next few weeks.”
The military could quickly provide assistance as New Brunswick is home to the army’s base in Gagetown, the second largest military base in Canada.
Many New Brunswickers were taking advantage of one of the 46 warming centres in the province set up for people left without heat.
Caraquet City Hall was at full capacity with all 54 beds occupied Saturday evening, according to Mayor Kevin Hache, who directed overflow to another warming centre in the area.
Hache said the crowd was in high spirits as people mingled over supper, kids drew pictures and adults played cards to pass the time. He said people were anxious to get back home, but understand the “gravity” of the crisis, and are settled in for possibly for the next 48 hours as they wait for New Brunswick Power to restore electricity to the area.
NB Power said tens of thousands of residents in the eastern part of the province were still without power Saturday afternoon.
Gallant said the utility hopes to restore power Saturday to 80 per cent of the Acadian Peninsula, where several communities are under states of emergency. He said the utility predicts that power will be restored to 80 per cent of the Miramichi, and despite new outages in southeastern New Brunswick Friday, around 99 per cent of residents should have power by the end of Saturday.
“Although we’re working very hard to take as many steps forward, at times, there are steps we have to take back,” said Gallant. “One of the things that people in the region can do to really help is just to stay safe … and the second thing is just to reach out to some neighbours.”
The premier urged those without power to remain patient as more than 310 emergency crews continue to make progress under difficult conditions, such as the build-up of ice on trees, poles and lines and roads blocked by fallen vegetation.
Substations and transmissions lines have been restored, Gallant said, which should help get key services back up and running. He said a helicopter is in the region in case air transportation is needed.
Gallant said around 200 volunteers were going door-to-door in the parts of New Brunswick without power to check in on citizens in private residences and nursing homes and offer transportation warming centres, where people can eat, sleep and charge their phones.
In light of the two people who have died and seven people who were being treated for injuries suspected to be related to carbon monoxide poisoning, Gallant urged residents to take care when it comes to auxiliary heating and gas-powered equipment.
Medical professionals “cannot stress enough” the importance of not running a generator or burning an open flame inside the home, Gallant said, urging all New Brunswickers to make sure their friends and neighbours were aware of the risk.
RCMP spokesman Paul Greene says the Mounties responded to the deaths of a 62-year-old man at his home in Petite Riviere de l’ile on Lameque Island in the Acadian Peninsula on Thursday night and the death of a 74-year-old woman in her garage in Saint-Leolin, also a small community on the Acadian Peninsula, on Thursday afternoon.
Greene said the man’s death was believed to be caused by carbon monoxide from a generator running in the home, while the death of the woman also appeared to be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, though few details were available on Friday night.
Guy Cormier, assistant mayor of Saint-Leolin, says people in the community of about 650 were saddened by the death of the elderly woman, but have been so busy looking after themselves, they haven’t had time to fully reflect on the loss.