Housing help needed for Igor victims: Williams

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams says his government may need to provide shelter to people who will be forced out of their homes by Hurricane Igor.
The Canadian Forces started work last weekend on rebuilding roads and bridges in rural Newfoundland communities. ((CBC) )

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams says his government may need to provide shelter to people who will be forced out of their homes by Hurricane Igor.

How to help

Several reputable organizations have campaigns launched because of Hurricane Igor, including the following:

Canadian Red Cross: Hurricane Igor Relief 1-800-418-1111

Salvation Army: Newfoundland East Division 1-709-579-2022

Community Food Sharing Association  1-709-722-0130

Samaritan's Purse Canada  1-403-250-6565

Igor, which reduced scores of roads, highways and bridges to rubble, also flooded countless homes, where owners are now tackling mould and other concerns. It's not known how many people have already lost their homes.

Williams said the government, which has dispatched crews and hired contractors to work with military personnel and volunteers to deliver supplies and rebuild infrastructure, is also preparing a housing response.

"There may be people who are displaced completely and have nowhere to go and of course, obviously that is something government will have a look at," Williams told CBC News.

"We've done that before, in situations like Badger where we had serious floods," said Williams, referring to catastrophic winter flooding in 2003 that destroyed many homes in the central Newfoundland town.

Premier Danny Williams says the Newfoundland and Labrador government may extend housing assistance in the wake of Hurricane Igor. ((CBC) )

"We had to move some of the families in to, you know, a hostel — for want of a better term — on an interim basis."

Most roads in the province have been reopened to what is called "light traffic," sometimes with rudimentary paths that allow just one lane of traffic at a time.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government expects the cost of making public repairs after Igor will top $100 million, although assessments are still being made.

Although Igor did not actually make landfall in Newfoundland, it ripped through the eastern half of the island with a force not seen in decades. Winds reached as high as 172 km/h, while Igor dumped between 120 and 238 millimetres of rain in the hardest hit areas.

Igor was strong enough to knock over bridges, wash culverts away and leave many roads looking like war zones.

In communities like Elliston, near the tip of Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula, residents are worried about how much can be accomplished, especially now that autumn chills are looming.

A massive crater sits where the road to Bonavista, the largest town in the area, ought to be.

"Hopefully it'll be before the snow falls to get some repairs done so we can get access out this way to Bonavista," resident Fred Cuff told CBC News, "but I'm not anticipating that we're going to see a whole lot before snow falls."

Neighbours like Sandy Chaulk have been spending their days carting away rocks and debris.

"I'm coping. We thank our lucky stars we have our lives and our house," she said.

Some homeowners, though, may find their properties at risk, particularly as detection is made of the lingering effects of water-borne damage.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has been operating an emergency operations centre, which has been yielding hundreds of requests for help each day.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged to provide disaster relief assistance.