Internet, cellular service restored to Magdalen Islands

Internet and cellular service have been restored to the Magdalen Islands after a severe windstorm knocked out communications early Thursday morning.

Thousands still without power as a military plane is sent to islands

About 30 Hydro poles were knocked down by the severe winds. (Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada)

Internet and cellular service have been restored to the Magdalen Islands after a severe windstorm knocked out communications early Thursday.

Winds reaching up to 130 kilometres per hour knocked down power lines and severed underwater fibre optic lines that provide phone and internet service to residents of the islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Mayor Jonathan Lapierre tweeted late Thursday that one of the two fibre optic cables was repaired, but he told Radio-Canada that it remains fragile. 

The two fibre optic cables running between Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands have long been a concern, according to MNA Joël Arseneau, who represents the islands.

"We knew that the cables were somewhat fragile. In the past four years, there has been many calls to the government to get funding to get the cables repaired," he told CBC, noting it took months to repair just one of those cables the last time it was severed.

The "worst possible nightmare" has always been that the cables would break down and "that's what happened."

Arseneau, who is in Quebec City, said trucks from the mainland will cross over Friday, weather permitting.

A housing complex, the HLM de Havre-aux-Maisons, burned to the ground after "one of the residents tried to cook a meal with a makeshift kitchen stove and a fire broke out," he said.

 About 40 residents were able to evacuate the building safely, but are now without a home.

Military plane to the rescue

Quebec Premier François Legault said the military plane that flew to the islands Thursday evening would provide aid to the community.

The military aircraft was needed as high winds made it impossible for commercial aircraft to land in the archipelago.

The Magdalen Islands were hit by a winter storm overnight Thursday, cutting of phone service and power for thousands. (Submitted by Stéphane Longuépée)

"It's a difficult situation and our hearts are with them," Legault said at a news conference.

Representatives from Quebec's Public Security Ministry, Hydro-Québec, Bell Canada and health workers will be on board to provide aid, and repair the damaged infrastructure.

Restoring electricity made difficult by high winds

Hydro-Québec reporter Friday morning that about 2,000 households out of 7,700 are still without electricity.

About 30 poles have been knocked down and other structures are damaged.

Hydro-Québec spokesperson Stéphane Dumaresq said repairs are difficult because of strong gusts of wind, and teams on the ground are having trouble communicating with each other.

With files from Radio-Canada and CBC Nova Scotia