As post-tropical storm Fiona walloped Atlantic Canada after making landfall early Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government will deploy the Canadian Armed Forces to assist in recovery after a request from Nova Scotia.
The federal government will also match any donations to the Canadian Red Cross by individuals and corporations over the next month, he said in a press conference Saturday.
“Were thinking first and foremost of the people whove had a terrifying past 12 hours,” Trudeau said. “As Canadians, as we always do in times of difficulty, we will be there for each other.”
The prime minister also announced that he cancelled his planned visit to Japan for the state funeral of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to instead focus on supporting Canadians affected by the storm.
The powerful post-tropical storm, which saw wind gusts as high as 141 km/h in Nova Scotia and estimates of more than 200 millimetres of rain, continues to make its way through the Atlantic region Saturday afternoon.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S., said Fiona set an unofficial record for the lowest-ever barometric pressure for a tropical storm making landfall in Canada. The recorded pressure at Hart Island was 931.6 millibars.
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.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair says the federal government is localizing federal resources to help provinces in the aftermath of the storm and that preparations for the storm began several days ago “in close collaboration” with provinces.
“Its all hands on deck to make sure that that we recover as quickly as possible and, to that end, weve been working very closely and receiving … requests for assistance from our provincial counterparts,” he told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
Blair said that a Disaster Financial Assitance arrangement is also now in play, to reimburse all provinces for the costs that they may incur to recover from the storm, although an exact dollar figure wasn’t provided.
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, Blair 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.
Indigenous Services Canada is also working with First Nation communities to ensure support, he added.
RCMP members across Nova Scotia responded to “numerous” calls overnight and into Saturday morning. Police say some were routine calls, but the majority have been due to issues with roads, including washouts, downed trees, power lines and debris.
National Defence Minister Anita Anand said on Saturday that all three branches of the Canadian Armed Forces are preparing equipment and personnel for dispatch at hard-hit cities and that three Royal Canadian Navy ships are ready to respond in St. John’s.
“As the situation evolves, we remain ready to respond in Nova Scotia and in other provinces that may need our help,” she said.
“We will continue to collaborate closely with provinces and other partners and I promise all Canadians that we will always do whatever we can to help you.”