New Brunswick

Volunteers provide shelter, food and comfort during ice storm

Volunteers, many without power in their own homes, are stepping up to help those who need assistance in New Brunswick.

46 warming centres open in four regions of New Brunswick

Local residents in the Neguac region have been making use of the warming centre at the Neguac legion. That centre and many others will remain open until power is restored to all residents. (Gail Harding/CBC)

Volunteers in many areas of New Brunswick are stepping up to help those who need assistance after an ice storm has left some without power for as long as five days.

Many, like Eunice Forbes, have no power themselves but are doing what they can to help those that need to get warm. 

Forbes has been at the Neguac legion since it opened Friday morning as a warming centre for residents in Alnwick Parish.

"We are here so people can get warm and have something to eat. People are telling us it is very cold in their house. They were glad when we opened this yesterday morning," she said.

Forbes said the building in Neguac is open 24 hours a day and will remain open until its it's no longer needed.

'We are here to help'

She said NB Power provided bread, jam and peanut butter, along with other staples. Some food is being provided by volunteers and if anything is needed, the village is providing it.

"The legion is here for the community and when they need something, we are here to help," said Forbes.

There are 46 warming centres set up across the province, with the majority in the Acadian Peninsula where, as of 6 p.m. AT Saturday, there were 20,000 customers still without power.

The Canadian Red Cross is staffing a regional reception centre and shelter in Bas Caraquet at École l'Escale-des-Jeunes.

The Red Cross distributed cots, blankets, drinking water and other supplies to the warming centres. Over 40 volunteers, along with vehicles and trailers filled with supplies, were sent to northeast New Brunswick. 

Anyone with questions about these centres can call the Red Cross at 1-800-222-9597 or The New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization (NBEMO) at 1-800-561-4034.

NBEMO has set up its command post in Inkerman and a mobile-command unit has been set up in Caraquet.

Door-to-door checks

There are officials from all government departments working to co-ordinate the recovery response. Over 200 volunteers are going door to door to check on the welfare of residents in the region and more volunteers were expected to join the effort.

At a press conference Saturday, Premier Brian Gallant asked people to check on their neighbours or volunteer to go door to door if they could.

In Tracadie, volunteers like Louis Ralph are helping those who need help at the warming centre set up at École Le Tremplin. 

Ralph said everyone is very appreciative.

"It's warm in here so everybody who hasn't been warm in a while is having fun, playing cards and having coffee," he said.

He said many people realize they may not have power in the next 24 hours.

"There's too much damage. I went for a ride yesterday and just in the neighbourhood here, I counted over 100 broken telephone poles. So you've got Shippagan, Lameque, Caraquet. It's not about to be over," he said.

Julie Basque, community agent for Francophone Nord-Est School District says people are very appreciative to have a place to warm up. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Julie Basque, who works for the Francophone Nord-Est School District, said she received a call from town staff asking if the school board could help out, so she made a few calls to get things set up. 

"It's not perfect. We're learning because we've never done that before. But it's going well. Everybody's calm," said Basque. "We have warm food, beds, toys for the kids. Everything is OK." 

Basque said over 100 people had visited the warming centre since it opened and 22 slept there.

"It's a first for everyone, but people are awesome. Everybody wants to help," she said.

With files from Bridget Yard