2 dead in wake of New Brunswick ice storm
Premier says province is 'still dealing with significant challenges due to the storm'
The ice storm that hit New Brunswick this week appears to have claimed two lives and injured two people.
Premier Brian Gallant said Friday it is believed two people are dead from carbon monoxide poisoning and two others are suffering from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
"It is with great sadness and with a heavy heart that I announce to you all that there are two people that have been reported … to have passed due to a poisoning of carbon monoxide," said Gallant at a news conference in Caraquet.
"The thoughts of New Brunswickers go out to the families, loved ones and communities of these two individuals we have lost," he said. "We are also thinking of the two individuals who are injured, wishing them a speedy and full recovery."
Gallant said he did not have details about the deaths and injuries.
"At this time I would like to remind New Brunswickers of the dangers of using generators, barbecues and open flames indoors," said Gallant.
States of emergency
Three communities in northeastern New Brunswick declared a state of emergency Friday after this week's major ice storm.
The mayors or municipal councils in Tracadie, Shippagan and Lameque declared emergencies as many residents remain without electricity.
The provincial transportation department reported Route 11 in the Pokemouche area and Highway 113 at Shippagan Harbour were closed Friday afternoon.
As of 9:33 p.m. AT Friday, more than 48,500 NB Power customers were without electricity. More than 23,000 of those were located on the Acadian Peninsula in the province's northeast.
More than 8,500 of NB Power customers in the Moncton area are without power, and another 8,200 in Miramichi.
NB Power expects 99 per cent of NB Power customers in the Bouctouche, Moncton, Sackville, Shediac and Sussex areas to have their power restored by Friday night.
In Miramichi, 85 per cent of customers should be restored late Friday night. In Tracadie, another 65 per cent of customers are expected to have power restored Friday night as well.
"We are still dealing with significant challenges due to the storm earlier this week," Gallant said Friday.
"This isn't an easy time for many New Brunswickers, especially on the eastern part of our province."
While local states of emergency have been declared by municipalities, the provincial government has not declared a state of emergency for any area of the province.
"We are not ruling out the possibility of declaring a state of emergency for a particular region of the province, but at this time prohibiting travel or ordering evacuations are not a part of our strategy of recovery," said Gallant.
Military help explored
Gallant said the province has contacted the federal government to see if there are additional resources it can provide to the regions impacted by the storm.
"This includes discussing if the Canadian Armed Forces would be able to help in some shape or form," said Gallant.
"The government of Canada remains ready to provide assistance to ensure the province has the necessary resources to address the impacts of this disaster," stated Scott Bardsley, the press secretary for federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, in a news release following Gallant's news conference.
Bardsley said the federal government is "closely monitoring the situation" in New Brunswick.
"Our thoughts are with the people of New Brunswick as they respond to, and recover from, the ice storm and our and our government stands ready to support them," stated Bardsley.
NB Power spokesman Paul Doucet said people should also stay at least 10 metres away from any downed equipment.
"There was an incredible buildup of ice on the trees, on poles, on our lines and in some places two inches of ice on our equipment and that severely impacts the grid in those regions," said Doucet.
"The storm ranged for over 36 hours. It takes a while for us to get out, assess the situation and move toward restoration."
"Every storm's different … every storm has its own character," he said. "You just don't know what the storms are going to bring."
Doucet said there are currently 300 crews on the ground working out of eight local operation centres and crews are working as safely and as quickly as possible.
"In the Miramichi and Acadian Peninsula, this was a massive ice storm and it takes a large effort for us to go after it," he said.
"We will not relax our efforts until every customer is reconnected."
NB Power's director of business, Bernard Roy, cautioned people to stay away from NB Power equipment.
"Just because a piece of wire is down and looks relatively safe doesn't mean that it is," he said. "Facilities can be re-energized at any time and we don't want to see anyone injured.
"So stay away from our facilities."
Paul Bradley, communications officer with New Brunswick's Department of Public Safety, said the province's Emergency Measures Organization [EMO] is doing everything it can to help communities that have declared a state of emergency.
"We understand why local authorities feel the situation was warranted … given the situation on the ground in those areas," said Bradley.
"These declarations, they're being made for local reasons."
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He said the province is acting in concert with affected communities by implementing warming and emergency centres across New Brunswick.
Bradley didn't have the official number of communities that have declared a state of emergency.
Bradley also said it's still too early to tell how much the storm is costing the province.
In light of the severe weather conditions in certain regions of New Brunswick, postal services were cancelled Friday in the Acadian Peninsula, Miramichi-Chatham, Saint-Louis-de-Kent, Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, Harcourt, Bass River, Richibucto-Village and Alma.
The post offices were also closed in those regions Friday.
"It is not safe to send our delivery agents to deliver mail today," said Philipe Legault, spokesman for Canada Post. "Delivery will resume once conditions improve and it is safe to do so."
With files from Vanessa Blanch, Elizabeth Fraser, Bridget Yard and Alan White