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Province outlines Hurricane Fiona relief response


From left: MHA Andrew Parsons (Burgeo – La Poile) and Premier Andrew Furey held a media availability to discuss ongoing relief response to post-tropical depression Fiona, which battered the Southwest coast on Saturday, Sept. 24 . – via YouTube

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

ST. JOHN’S — Premier Andrew Furey, Elvis Loveless, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Andrew Parsons, Minister of Industry, Energy, and Technology, and John Hogan, Minister of Justice and Public Safety, provided an update on the recovery response to the impacts of Hurricane Fiona on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 4.

• To date, 805 households have registered with the Canadian Red Cross, 260 homes have been reported as damaged by Hurricane Fiona. Structural assessments have been completed on 254 homes in the region, and assessments in Burgeo had begun.

• Contractors continue to remove debris stemming from the damage Fiona caused, and they are moving the stockpiles to a regional waste management site.

• All roads are currently open. Repair work on damaged roads in Burnt Islands is almost finished and that includes the repairs to damage on two areas on Main Road as well as the causeway damage.

• Route 470 remains open to one lane, while repairs to Route 408 also began on Oct. 4.

• Inspections on a damaged seawall protecting the water supply in Ramea have been undertaken and this has caused no issues to the water supply system.

• In addition, more than 300 calls have been made to the Fiona Response Coordinator, including 167 different households in the region inquiring about information on assistance and 86 from organizations, such as not-for-profit organizations, schools, and volunteers offering assistance.

Premier Furey said the municipal leaders he has been keeping in contact with are hard at work looking after their citizens and ensuring they have a co-ordinated effort in the Fiona relief.

“I spoke with Brigadier-General Masson and stressed the importance of widening the scope of the military response in the area and, of course, he gave us his reassurance that, that was their intention,” said Furey. “The outpouring of donations and support from the people in the province and across the country has been overwhelming and speaks to the spirit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians here and abroad and, in fact, Canadians, when we come together to support each other during times of disaster.”

Furey added that, one of the main reasons to extend the military’s time in the region is to assist with the cleanup, which has much more to it when you are dealing with the keepsakes and livelihoods of residents impacted.

“It’s different than cleaning up trees, for example, which can be done with a chainsaw fairly quickly and strategically, but this requires a bit more thought. So expanding the time the military are there to allow for people to potentially access those items and keepsakes, personal items, and then look at removing the debris.”

In addition to terrestrial debris, there is significant marine debris that represents a future threat.

“We expanded our request for assistance through the military, but it would also include other federal government assets, for example, in helping with cleaning up the marine environment so that existing vessels, for example, aren’t at risk from floating debris.”

Furey also expressed that safety for everyone is paramount.

“We know there is a temptation to return to the site, but please follow the rules, follow the guidance of professionals who have been out there and assessing the situation. We are continuing to get a better handle on the needs of the community in terms of the rebuild. I know everyone will have a lot of questions about the rebuilding process. We are still working through that currently, but rest assured we will be there to ensure the community is rebuilt in a stronger fashion, one that is reflective of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in general.”

Furey also addressed the concerns of individuals who are uninsured or who have been told by their insurance companies that they are not going to be covered for the damages sustained during Fiona.

“They are the most heartbreaking stories. When you’re standing on the side of the road, and we were in Margaree, I think, talking to a gentleman who owned his house and it was lifted, twisted, sat back down, waterlogged, demolished, and he said he didn’t have any insurance or wasn’t going to be covered, but here was his whole life savings, his whole home that he lived in basically his whole adult life, and we told him, ‘Don’t worry about it. The $30 million package will look after you.’ You could see the stress and strain come from his shoulders, come from his face. There was a great deal of relief,” said Furey. “When you’re faced with losing your home, not just your house, but your home, then trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for things. Having this provincial program in place as a backstop for people who are uninsurable or whose insurance doesn’t cover is something we wanted to do and did do because we recognized it as an immediate need.”

Parsons said there is a frustration with the insurance companies.

“There’s been adjusters moving around and the general consensus seems to be that – in most cases – there will not be coverage. I think we’ve managed to take care of the immediate concern, which is what we’re telling people, ‘We’re going to be there for you.’ The insurance part we will figure out,” said Parsons. “The Minister responsible for Digital Government and ServiceNL, Sara Stoodley, is actually going to be meeting with insurance companies because it falls under her. It’s not an immediate issue at the time for us. I think people are mostly concerned right now with what the housing situation is going to be, how do I pay for that, and what is the long-term. So what we’ve assured is we’ll figure that out and there will be a greater conversation with insurance companies moving forward.”

Part of the long-term plan involves what is going to be done for those individuals and families who have been permanently displaced. Furey said it is all part of the $30 million package to help rebuild.

“We will be putting together a cabinet committee in the coming days that will look at the long-term issue, as we know that it may not be immediate in mind, but it will be top of mind for everyone as we navigate to the next stage.”

That plan includes housing and Furey said that the province will be there to rebuild a house and will absorb the costs for those who aren’t covered by insurance.

Work is already underway in terms of municipal planning.

“They already had a plan in place for further expansion. Now that will be expedited. Crown Lands Minister Bragg has been right there saying whatever we need to figure that out, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing has been in touch in terms of what can we do to look at different units and things like that. It’s absolutely ongoing but is happening parallel with all these other efforts at the same time.”

At the top of the list of what the government wanted to accomplish right away was to remove some of the stress people felt after Fiona.

“If there’s one line I’ve said all along, it’s that this is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t recover from this in days, or weeks. This is months and who knows how long, but there are short-term immediate needs, and there will be longer term issues and we are trying to deal with them as they come.”

The Incident Command Centre can be contacted by calling 1-800-863-6582 or via email at: FionaResponse@gov.nl.ca for assistance.

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