Nfld. & Labrador

Igor fixes will take months

Officials are rushing to provide emergency aid to hurricane-ravaged towns in Newfoundland, although long-term repairs will not be made until 2011.

More than 900 military personnel now on the ground

Military personnel continued the painstaking work Monday of not only getting supplies to hurricane-ravaged towns in eastern Newfoundland, but assessing just how many roads need to be repaired in the months to come.

Igor: How to get help

Emergency operations centre: 1 888 395 5611 For individuals requiring urgent assistance with shelter, food, supplies and other needs, and to report broader concerns with infrastructure

Six days after Hurricane Igor blew apart bridges and turned roads to rubble, work is intensifying to restore connections to about two dozen communities without any outside road access.

The Canadian Forces were called to action on Friday, with at least 900 personnel now on the ground to provide emergency aid to thousands of people who need food, medicine, water, fuel and other supplies.

A primary goal will be repairing dozens of washed-out roads, particularly on the Burin Peninsula in southern Newfoundland and the Bonavista Peninsula to the north.

Tom Hedderson, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister responsible for emergency measures, said that with the fall construction season about to end, only temporary changes can be made.

"There's no way we can start bridges now and have them completed before the winter sets in," Hedderson said.

"Again, we're looking at making sure as we go forward [that] it is strategic and planned and any of the temporary fixes that we make, that we will be going back over them to make sure that they're safe."

The Canadian Forces dispatched three ships, a fleet of Sea King helicopters and personnel from outside provinces to handle the emergency response. The team includes engineers who are figuring out how to provide temporary bridges and start the multimillion-dollar work of rebuilding roads.

Private donations have been flooding in, with the Canadian Red Cross saying Monday it has received everything from food and toiletries to the use of a helicopter.

The assessment process has proven to be more complicated than first thought, although teams will work on urgent cases.

Stack said navy personnel may be brought in to help residents whose waterlogged homes have become uninhabitable.

"If the province so requires, our naval parties [are able] to go ashore and help people with their flooding situation in basements and things like that. We've got plenty of equipment on board those vessels that can help pump people out," Stack said.

The number of people involved in the Igor cleanup now numbers in the thousands, including volunteers as well as independent contractors that the Newfoundland and Labrador government has hired.

On Sunday evening, about 160 reservists left Canadian Forces Station St. John's for Clarenville, an eastern Newfoundland service town that is serving the key hub for Igor relief efforts. The reservists will assist field engineers and defence personnel.

Officials have urged people travelling in areas that were torn up during the hurricane to be cautious, and to report anything that might compromise public safety.

Hedderson said as more connections are restored, even provisionally, residents should not be complacent.

"As we get farther away from the event, people start to let their guard down, in their driving, in what they do," he said.

"They think they're back to a normal situation, but we're still into an emergency situation, and asking people to be even more vigilant now."