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Quebec's party leaders head to Gatineau after tornado rips through region

On day 31 of a whirlwind election campaign, four party leaders dropped everything Saturday and headed out to Gatineau, Que., to tour the devastation and offer assistance after a violent tornado ripped through the area Friday night.

6 people taken to hospital after a twister touched down Friday

Premier Philippe Couillard and Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux travelled to Gatineau Saturday morning to see the damage. (Radio-Canada/CBC Ottawa)

On day 31 of an election campaign, Quebec's party leaders dropped everything and went to Gatineau to offer assistance and tour the devastation left in the wake of a violent tornado that ripped through the area Friday afternoon.

Soon after the tornado touched down, Premier Philippe Couillard tweeted, "I will suspend my campaign tomorrow morning to go to the Outaouais to meet the citizens affected by this tornado and to talk with the municipal authorities and the civil security stakeholders on the ground."

His electoral caravan did not follow him as he met with officials like Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin and Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux to discuss the situation.

Two people remained in critical condition in hospital and tens of thousands were still without power Saturday.

The two individuals were among six taken to hospital after the twister touched down in Dunrobin — a rural community in Ottawa's west end.

Multiple homes were severely damaged or destroyed, dozens of power poles were knocked down and more than 200,000 people lost power.

Video footage from Friday and Saturday shows damage to homes and structures after tornado rips through area 1:17

'Concentrating on people'

Speaking to reporters from Gatineau, Couillard said, "We are concentrating on people and getting people back home as soon as possible, as safely as possible."

Quebec has contributed $1 million to the Canadian Red Cross for short-term aid, he said, and more money is on the way. He is urging citizens to donate as well.

People collect personal effects from damaged homes after a tornado touched down in Ottawa's Dunrobin neighbourhood on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

With other party leaders on the way, Couillard welcomed the support.

"This is a moment when we are all Quebecers and we all represent people at different levels, in different ways," he said.

"The fact that, as representatives of the people, we are here with the people, sends a very powerful message. I think we show, in spite of our differences sometimes, there are moments where we all stand together."

Three more Quebec politicians head west

Official opposition and Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée also changed his agenda to be with the victims of the natural disaster.

Early Saturday, he reminded reporters that, as leader of the opposition, when there was a flood, he went. When there was a heat wave, he intervened.

"So, I said to myself that I will do what I would do if we were not in the electoral campaign. That is to say, to show my solidarity with the people who were affected," he said.

Second opposition group and Coalition avenir Québec Leader François Legault also headed to Gatineau Saturday, and spoke to reporters alongside Québec solidaire co-spokesperson and MNA Manon Massé, and Pedneaud-Jobin.

Legault urged people to support Gatineau citizens and show solidarity.

He said that with climate change, more incidents like this will happen, and that this increases the pressure on cities like Gatineau.

"Cities don't always have the funds; they need help from Quebec," Legault said, adding that a govenrment program should be put in place for situations like this.

Massé said she's impressed with how efficiently the city dealt with the situation.

"Not even 24 hours later, people are returning to their homes," Massé said.

She emphasized the importance of helping those with limited financial means, who are doubly affected by the tornado, and expressed her party's solidarity with them.

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