Igor throws hundreds in N.L. out of work

Hundreds of people on the Bonavista Peninsula are out of work because Hurricane Igor badly damaged a fish processing plant there.
This fish processing plant has been closed since Hurricane Igor lashed eastern Newfoundland Tuesday. (Zach Goudie/CBC)
Hundreds of people on Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula are out of work because Hurricane Igor badly damaged a fish processing plant there.

One of the area's major employers, the Ocean Choice International Fish Plant in Port Union, was hit hard by the storm last Tuesday. More than 200 people work there.

"There's talk that it won't be open this year and will probably never open again," said Eric Squires, a priest at St. Peter's Anglican Church, which is in the area.

Squires said the storm devastated the fish plant.

"The engine room was under about five or six feet of water. That means all the equipment there was just about shot with water. The siding is blown off one side of the building," he said.

Sliding was ripped off this fish plant on the Bonavista Peninsula by the high winds Hurricane Igor brought to eastern Newfoundland. ((Zach Goudie/CBC))
Jim Dalton of the Food, Fisheries Allied Workers union also saw it.

"There's hundreds of thousands, probably millions of dollars of damage there," he said. "The road to the loading dock is gone completely. Even in the lunchroom there was probably three to four feet of water. Our plant is finished for this year."

At least one worker had to be helped out of the building, wading through rushing water up to his waist last Tuesday, Dalton said.

"Two fishermen helped him get out of it. There was just a river running right through the plant," he said.

The plant was processing shrimp when the storm hit.

"We were working right up to the day this happened… trying to qualify everyone for employment insurance."

A plant worker must work 14 weeks each year to receive EI payments from the federal government.

"In the blink of an eye, there are hundreds of people out of work. This is total devastation in this area. I know one household that hasn't had any income for three weeks, and that's bad," Dalton said. "You can forget the plant this year. The earliest we will ever work there again is next spring."

Ocean Choice International officials told CBC News that they've been unable to reach the plant to survey the damage and can't say what the company's plans are until they do.

Huge wash-outs have closed many roads on the Bonavista Peninsula. On Monday, it was still impossible to reach Port Union by car.