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MONTREAL — Extreme weather conditions have caused chaos in much of Canada, especially in the east of the country.
Major storms have forced many companies to cancel flights and trains. Nine VIA Rail trains were immobilized in Quebec and Ontario on Saturday.
The Niagara region in southern Ontario has declared a state of emergency due to the winter storm.
In a statement, the region says “blizzard-like conditions including blowing snow, whiteout conditions and sometimes zero visibility” in several of its municipalities are making conditions “treacherous.”
Citing “widespread” power outages are also worsening conditions, the region is asking residents to stay home if possible.
They are also asked to avoid any travel to its southern areas, and “in particular the municipalities of Fort Erie, Wainfleet and Port Colborne”.
The Ontario Provincial Police reported the first road fatality in the province since the storm began, and officers were investigating whether or not extreme weather played a role.
“Going out could put you in danger and peril as emergency first responders may not be able to respond to calls,” Wainfleet Township said on Twitter.
“If you are at home without electricity, please do what you can to keep the heat in, help friends, family and neighbors where it is safe to do so,” reads a warning on the city’s website. town of Port Colborne.
By 5 p.m. Saturday, the massive storm that caused all the chaos had affected six provinces and was moving across Ontario and Quebec, said Environment Canada meteorologist Victoria Nurse.
“One of the biggest impacts was the wind, which led to heavy blowing snow, reduced visibility and road collisions,” Nurse said.
“So our main lesson today and for tomorrow is to travel very carefully. Try to avoid travel, but if you must travel, be very careful.”
Parts of southern and northeastern Ontario would likely see snow squalls from the Great Lakes overnight and on Christmas Day, the meteorologist said.
As of early Saturday evening, only one province and territory were not affected by an Environment Canada weather warning: Nunavut and Nova Scotia.
Numerous cancellations at VIA Rail
Vee Grunda, a passenger stranded without food and water aboard a VIA Rail train in Cobourg, said the convoy stopped “in the middle of nowhere” around 11 p.m. Friday. Eventually, the passengers, who were transferred to another train, were given a granola bar, a bottle of water while having the choice between a cup of coffee or tea.
Some passengers have said on social media that they have been stuck on trains for more than 18 hours without food or water.
Vee Grunda said firefighters came to help passengers change trains.
VIA Rail said more than 20 trains were canceled in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor due to weather-related power outages or downed trees.
Seven other trains were canceled entirely on Saturday morning, the railway company said in a statement. The service is expected to experience significant delays.
“Some suffered from an anxiety attack. Some passengers suffered from diabetes. We had a two-month-old baby, elderly, Ms. Grunda said in a phone interview. VIA Rail did not turn off the lights. Nobody could sleep. The situation was tense.”
Passengers have even jumped off the train to venture outside. “They were trying to go into people’s yards, to go into a street,” said Ms. Grunda.
VIA Rail said it was trying to get passengers to their final destinations, either by moving frozen trains forward or by bringing in new trains that could transport them safely.
The company said it has focused its efforts on trying to keep its passengers as comfortable as possible given the circumstances and getting them to their destination as quickly as possible. “We are making every effort to find solutions to reach the stalled trains,” read a statement.
This service malfunction at VIA Rail greatly displeased federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
“The current situation with VIA-Rail is unacceptable. We are in contact to solve the problems in a safe way. Weather conditions have caused delays in our transportation system and the safety of passengers and crew is our priority,” he said on social media.
In the early evening, VIA Rail said on its website that it is forced to “cancel all trains between Toronto and Ottawa and Toronto and Montreal for December 25” due to a train derailment that occurred earlier on Saturday. .
In Ontario, Hydro One reported that 69,853 customers were still without power around noon. That number spiked to more than 76,000 at 2 p.m., then dropped to around 47,500 around 11 p.m. The company has indicated that some customers will have to wait several days before having electricity again.
Several airports were affected by the storms. WestJet says it has canceled 60 of its 500 flights scheduled for Saturday. The company has canceled 1,307 flights since December 18.
The next day, the authorities issued numerous calls for caution.
“To Canadians affected by winter weather conditions across the country: be careful. Crews are working hard to clear roads, restore power and get services back online. Let’s also make sure our friends and neighbors are well,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter.
In the Maritimes
Environment Canada was forecasting heavy rain and strong winds throughout Christmas Eve in the Maritimes. The storm could reach Newfoundland and Labrador on Saturday evening.
In northern New Brunswick, some communities were also preparing to receive storm surges, especially during the high tide on Saturday afternoon. In New School, gusts reached 115 km / hour.
More than 25,000 customers on Canada’s east coast were without power early Saturday evening, the bulk of them – more than 18,000 – in New Brunswick. They were more than 90,000 earlier in the day.
There were approximately 23,000 power outages in New Brunswick, 9,600 in Nova Scotia, 2,000 in Prince Edward Island and 600 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
New Brunswick was in the grip of one of the biggest power outages the province has seen in decades.
“This is one of the largest province-wide outages in 25 years,” said NB Power spokesman Marc Belliveau.
In southwestern Newfoundland, the town of Port aux Basques, still trying to recover from the effects of post-tropical storm Fiona, was hit by flooding caused by the storm surge. Mayor Brian Button said roads, playgrounds and a community park were overrun with water after Saturday morning’s high tide.
Fiona had destroyed around 100 homes in Port aux Basques in September.
“Today, when the sea roughs us up, it approaches our homes. The water level today was unbelievable,” he said.
Snowstorms cause chaos in much of the country
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