Federal documents suggest Newfoundland and Labrador was too slow to accept federal help after dozens of communities were damaged and isolated by Hurricane Igor in 2010.

A man who organized relief efforts in a northeastern Newfoundland community where people were left without necessities said the provincial government failed residents.

"[I'm] really disgusted because we were desperate out here for water and bread," said Rev. Eric Squires, the Anglican minister in Catalina, on the Bonavista Peninsula.

"I called [provincial] fire and emergency services to ask if we could get a boat to go across the bay to get some bread and water and they said 'no, buy what you want and send us the bill' and during the same time they turned down [federal] help for us."

Dunderdale defends response

On Thursday, after Squires spoke on CBC Radio, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale defended the provincial government's response.  

"It was important to be calm, to be measured, to rely on the expertise of our own people in terms of the assessment and for them to identify what we needed and to bring those resources to bear," she told CBC News.

Federal documents, originally requested by a central Newfoundland newspaper, The Packet, show that federal officials offered help immediately after the damage was done on Sept. 21.

"Highway infrastructure is profoundly impacted. Fire and Emergency Services N.L. (FESNL) has stated that this is by far the worst disaster that they have faced," wrote Denys Doiron, a federal emergency preparedness and Response Officer on Sept. 21. "There have been no requests for federal assistance to date."

Doiron wrote federal resources were ready and waiting for a call from the province.

"One-hundred-and-eighty Department of National Defence personnel could be deployed in two hours, [military ship] HMCS St. John's is in St. John's harbour and can be mobilized within four hours. Fire and Emergency Services N.L. indicates that there will not be a request for assistance at this time," he wrote.

Two days later, when thousands of people in eastern Newfoundland communities were still isolated and without power, the province contacted federal officials.

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Hurricane Igor cut off both exits from Little Catalina on the Bonavista Peninsula. (Submitted by Marsha Goodyear)

On Sept. 23, Public Safety Canada sent a note to other federal departments suggesting a request for assistance would come soon.

"The acting minister of municipal affairs believes the current situation requires resources beyond those available to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador," stated the document.

"The Government of NL, through Fire and Emergency Services Agency, has identified several critical requirements for which we are seeking federal assistance."

Troops move in

The official request for help from the province to the federal government was sent on the afternoon of Sept. 24. – the same day Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew into the province to visit Igor-damaged communities with Premier Danny Williams.

Once that happened, federal military troops moved in with supplies and engineers to rebuild washed-out roads and bridges.

The documents show that military personnel distributed 95,000 litres of fuel, 60,000 litres of water, and 74,842 kilograms of food.

The Canadian Forces operation in Newfoundland and Labrador ended on Oct. 6.