In Port aux Basques, residents reeling after Fiona destroys dozens of homes

Jocelyn Gillum knows she is lucky to survive after battling a post-tropical storm that destroyed part of her city in southwestern Newfoundland and nearly drowned it in running water.

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Gillum was standing near her home in Port aux Basques on Saturday morning when a storm hit her legs and dragged her under a jeep as she clung to the chassis all her life.

The 61-year-old said she was chatting with family and neighbors when she turned her head and “saw Fiona coming”.

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“He was brown, he was white, he was angry,” he said in a telephone interview. “You might see he was coming with a vengeance.”

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After the tropical storm, Fiona devastated parts of Atlantic Canada, leaving homes destroyed, streets full of rubble and hundreds of thousands of people without electricity.

But few places have been hit as hard as the community of 4,000 people in Port aux Basques, where dozens of homes were destroyed and a 73-year-old woman died after being dragged into the sea after a storm hit her. The house was flooded.

Gillum recalls that as he struggled to hold the jeep, the water rose and his brother-in-law struggled against the current to reach it.

“He came but couldn’t find me because there was a lot of water,” she said. “I was so underwater.”

She said her brother-in-law called for help and when the water started to go down she and some neighbors managed to reach her.

Gillum runs off on one knee and says the memories will live with her “forever and a day”.

“Last night I didn’t sleep a wink because every time I turned around I saw the waves and then I could smell the water and smell it with my nose,” he said. declared. However, she says she has recovered and she considers herself lucky that her home was not damaged.

Few people in his city have been so lucky.

On Monday, residents escorted by a provincial response team plowed through piles of rubble in torrential rain to find what they could save from their homes.

A house on the edge of a cliff had a missing wall, the kitchen table and cabinets resting entirely on the wooden floor. Another house, about 100 feet away, was nearly razed, with no roof or side walls. Nearby, under the scattered wood lie a stuffed animal and a blanket containing Pixar’s “Cars” characters.

Premier Andrew Fury visited Port aux Basques and surrounding communities on Monday and compared the devastation in southwestern Newfoundland to disaster areas, where he worked as a doctor.

As of Monday afternoon, he said, at least 80 homes have been destroyed or structurally damaged in Port aux Basques alone, but the number could increase as authorities continue to assess the damage.

“For every roof that floats in the ocean, there is a family, there are stories and memories related to that infrastructure, and it is heartbreaking,” he told reporters.

He said officials are still working with the federal government on where to deploy members of the military and offer other federal aid.

Andrew Parsons, a member of the Bergio-La Poile provincial legislature, told the briefing that the immediate goal of relief efforts was to provide people with shelter, food and clothing. . Although an emergency shelter was made available, he said the displaced were all staying in hotels or with their families.

The long-term reconstruction effort would take longer and involve coordination and assistance from the federal government. “We don’t have all the answers right now, but we will get there and support everyone in this ordeal,” she said.

Phure said the government will announce a financial aid package in the coming days that would help those whose insurance won’t cover the loss.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 26, 2022.

With files of Morgan Lowry in Montreal

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