Government workers should have done more to help people left cold and hungry during last week's prolonged power outage in Cape Breton, residents say.

Jasmin Collins, chief of the Albert Bridge Fire Department, said the outage was an emergency. 

"We had a call of a lady not eating for two days and she was cold. She was pretty much in tears," Collins said. 

Her volunteers opened the fire hall so people could get warm and eat. The costs were covered by money raised at dances. 

The fire department sought sleeping cots from the Canadian Red Cross and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, but Collins was told to send people home. 

"I couldn't. To send them home to what? To downed power lines, you know, no power, no heat and like I said, seniors and babies," she said. 

Government 'should have stepped in'

Victor Hall lives on New Boston Road near Albert Bridge. The road wasn't plowed during the outage, meaning residents went 88 hours without power, water and, in some cases, phones. 

Hall said volunteers from the community were the main source of help. 

"They're the only ones [who] helped. They put that on themselves, but the provincial government should have stepped in. The municipality should have stepped in and the federal government, as far as I'm concerned," Hall said. 

CBC asked the head of the municipality's Emergency Management Organization to explain what happened, but he declined to comment before he spoke to council.