Powerful storm Fiona ripped into eastern Canada on Saturday with hurricane-force winds, forcing evacuations, knocking down trees and powerlines, and reducing many homes on the coast to “just a pile of rubble in the ocean”.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the center of the storm, downgraded to post-tropical cyclone Fiona, had reached the Gulf of St Lawrence after racing through Nova Scotia.
After taking its toll on Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (PEI), the storm battered Newfoundland and Eastern Quebec, but is now likely to weaken, the NHC said.
Port aux Basques, on the south-west tip of Newfoundland with a population of 4,067, declared a state of emergency and evacuated parts of the town that had suffered flooding and road washouts, according to mayor Brian Button.
Several homes and an apartment building were dragged out to sea, Rene Roy, editor-in-chief of Wreckhouse Weekly in Port aux Basques, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“This is hands down the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Roy said, describing many homes as “just a pile of rubble in the ocean right now”.
He added: “There is an apartment building that’s literally gone. There are entire streets that are gone.”
Police are investigating whether a woman had been swept to sea, CBC reported.
“We’ve gone through a very difficult morning,” Button said in a Facebook video, adding that the evacuations had been completed. “We’ll get through this. I promise you we will get through it.”
The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, held a meeting on Saturday morning with members of a government emergency response team. “Our government stands ready to support the provinces with additional resources,” Trudeau said in a tweet.
Fiona, which nearly a week ago battered Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean, killed at least eight and knocked out power for virtually all of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million people during a sweltering heatwave.
Fiona made landfall between Canso and Guysborough, Nova Scotia, where the Canadian Hurricane Center said it recorded what may have been the lowest barometric pressure of any storm to hit land in the country’s history.
Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre, told Reuters it appears Fiona lived up to expectations that it would be a “historical” storm. “It did look like it had the potential to break the all-time record in Canada, and it looks like it did,” he said. “We’re still not out of this yet.”
Storms are not uncommon in the region and typically cross over rapidly, but Fiona is expected to impact a very large area.
While scientists have not yet determined whether climate change influenced Fiona’s strength or behavior, there is strong evidence that these devastating storms are getting worse.
In Nova Scotia, about 69% of customers, or 360,000 were without power, and 95%, or more than 82,000, had lost power on Prince Edward Island, utility companies said. Police across the region reported multiple road closures. The region was also experiencing spotty mobile phone service.
Mobile and wifi provider Rogers Communications said it was aware of outages caused by Fiona, and that crews would work to restore service “as quickly as possible.“
PEI produces more than a fifth of Canada’s potatoes and the island’s potato farms, which are in harvest season, were likely to be damaged by the storm, Hubbard said.
“This morning we all woke up to some very scary scenes, roads washed down, uprooted trees, mailboxes where they are not supposed to be,” Darlene Compton, deputy premier of PEI, told reporters, saying it had been a “nerve-racking ” night.
In Halifax, 11 boats sank at the Shearwater Yacht Club and four were grounded, said Elaine Keene, who has a boat at the club that escaped damage.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said no injuries or fatalities had been reported so far, and officials from both PEI and Nova Scotia said the same.
The storm weakened somewhat as it traveled north. By 2pm in Halifax (6pm GMT), it was over the Gulf of St Lawrence about 105 miles west of Port aux Basques, carrying maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and barreling north at about 25mph, the NHC said.
Trudeau delayed his planned Saturday departure for Japan to attend the funeral of former prime minister Shinzo Abe.