Disaster relief program established to help ice storm victims
New Brunswick government will give $100,000 to food banks to help ice storm victims
The New Brunswick government is setting up a disaster relief program to help people recover financially from losses caused by the ice storm last week.
It is also giving $100,000 to food banks in regions hardest hit by the storm.
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By 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the number of homes and businesses without power had been reduced to about 10,000.
At news conference in Neguac on Tuesday, Premier Brian Gallant said residents should save receipts for items lost during the storm.
He stressed, however, that the government will not pay for things that can be claimed through insurance.
Food loss is considered an insurable loss and people should turn to their insurance providers to cover the cost of food lost because the power was off, a government news release said.
Service New Brunswick has more information about the supports available as well as a damage report form.
People urged to go to centres
Gallant cautioned people without electricity to use care with any food left inside a home.
"Be vigilant with your food and throw it out if there's any concern that it may have expired," he said. "We encourage you strongly to be very cautious."
He said support from emergency and warming centres in many regions will continue, and is also available to people who just got their power back.
He added that the centres are available to anyone, even if they are not from the same community.
At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, 8,800 homes and businesses remained without power on the Acadian Peninsula, the hardest hit region. In Kent County and Miramichi, the number of NB Power customers still without power was down to about 650.
At its height, the storm caused more than 130,000 customers to lose power.
Gallant cautioned there will be isolated events where it will take longer for individual households to get back on the grid.
"The last ones could mean it's a more complex situation," he said, stressing that people should not try to fix any problems or move downed trees and power poles by themselves since there is a risk of electrocution.
While he praised the many people and organizations involved in recovery efforts for their leadership, he said the government will do everything it can to learn from the disaster.
"We need to constantly learn and get better," he said.
People frustrated as supplies run out
In the meantime, the situation in Tracadie, one of the communities hardest hit by the storm, is worrisome, according to a Facebook post by the mayor.
Denis Losier said about half the town's 5,000 residents are still without electricity. This is a concern, he said, adding that another couple had just been taken to hospital with severe signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, a condition that led to two deaths last week.
I realize that all this adventure is trying, that people are exhausted — me first — and that it is not always easy to make the right choices at the right time when fatigue takes precedence over reason.- Denis Losier , Tracadie mayor
Losier asked people to heed the warnings against using generators and other fuel-powered appliances inside, and to go to warming centres if they can't use the equipment safely.
"It is important to be careful with the auxiliary heating system," he said.
"Be careful not to overtax your generators to avoid a fire. We had a fire yesterday because of that kind of situation."
He said water supplies are low and he filled his truck with the last crates for another delivery to a warming centre Monday night.
But he also asked people to be kinder to the volunteers and each other.
Some people have criticized the food offered to them, while others abuse food resources "to the detriment of those who really need them," he said.
"We have some people who are not very kind to our volunteers and resource people," he said.
Volunteers do their best
"I can understand that people are exhausted, destitute, but we must not forget that our volunteers do what they can with the means and resources available."
He added that it takes a lot of work to even offer these services.
NB Power crews are also working as fast as they can, but their work is dangerous and "they must meet the standards to be followed to avoid additional damage and accidents," he said.
"I realize that all this adventure is trying, that people are exhausted — me first — and that it is not always easy to make the right choices at the right time when fatigue takes precedence over reason," he said.
"Please be grateful to those who devote themselves to others."
NB Power infrastructure is 'sound'
NB Power CEO Gaëtan Thomas also heard that customers are getting frustrated with the outages.
But at Tuesday's news conference, he said, "the infrastructures are sound."
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In an earlier interview with CBC, he compared the ice storm to post-tropical storm Arthur in July 2014 and said the utility has improved its response to major storms that cause extensive outages.
"This time we had twice the number of poles from Arthur, and we did most of the clean-up from Arthur, restored most of the poles, in the first two weeks," Thomas said.
"So we're on our way to certainly do that on this one."
He added that NB Power has improved its co-operation with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, with warming centres open on the Acadian Peninsula, Kent County and the Miramichi within two days.
Overall, he said crews are "progressing very well" with the cleanup.
The utility has 380 crews on the ground repairing damaged equipment and clearing debris.
On the Acadian Peninsula power has been restored to 56 per cent of customers and on Tuesday, crews "are going to shoot for 70 per cent in that area," he said.
In the rest of the province, NB Power expected most homes and businesses to be reconnected by the end of Tuesday.
"When you look at my 35-year career, this one will stand as the biggest storm certainly in the last 30 or 40 years," Thomas said.