Things are looking a bit brighter for the northern Quebec Cree communities of Wemindji and Chisasibi, which have been without power for more than 30 hours, as Hydro Quebec has come up with plans to restore power.
Power has now been restored to about a third of residents in Chisasibi as of about 5 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Hydro Quebec is slowly bringing the power back so as not to blow the line.
If that plan works, it will do the same for Wemindji in the morning. If the system crashes, the company will start the backup generators it sent to the communities.
Hydro Québec estimates the power could be restored within 24 hours.
About 5,200 people have been without power for a day and a half.
The communities declared states of emergencies Tuesday due to the outage. Tuesday’s temperature is –26 C, but the forecast is for wind chills that will make it feel like –34 C.
Authorities are setting up emergency shelters in both communities to keep residents warm and safe.
Both communities are powered by one grid, which is connected to the La Grande dam nearby.
The Chief of Chisasibi, Abraham Rupert, told CBC News the problem started Friday with a transformer. That problem was resolved, but it now appears it has triggered problems with underground power lines.
Hydro Québec does not yet know how that happened.
It expects power to be restored to the community's hospital Tuesday. The facility has been running on backup power.
The chiefs from each community have given emergency planning and procedures to their local fire departments. There are some public buildings with backup power where people can go to keep warm.
"Some houses have wood stoves, and managed to get some wood and get the stoves going," said Rupert. "But some people had to endure the cold last night."
Chisasibi has a population of about 4,000, with Wemindji at 1,200. The Cree communities are close to the eastern shore of James Bay, about 260 kilometres apart.
Bedding and other items needed
Rupert said declaring a state of emergency allows Chisasibi to ask Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for assistance.
"We're not at a point where we will be evacuating yet, but we do need mattresses, beds, all of the necessities, like propane, so people can use propane stoves to cook their meals."
Rupert said the problems with the power started Friday. The communities did not have electricity for most of that day, but the issue was resolved. He suspects the problem now lies with the transformers at the dam.
Residents are asked to contact the local fire department if they want more information or need assistance.