Toronto calls in army to battle storm

The Canadian army has arrived in Toronto to do battle against an enemy it can never defeat - the weather.

Four hundred soldiers, backed by armoured vehicles, have taken up posts in Canada's largest city, ready to help get the crippled metropolis moving again.

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It is the second time in two years that the military has been called in to help. In 1998 it waged war against the ice in Quebec and eastern Ontario.

Toronto is limping through its third major winter storm in less than two weeks. The snow, wind and bone-chilling temperatures are making life almost impossible. Roads are closed, highways are suffering through whiteout conditions and the city's public transportation system is in chaos.

Besides the 400 soldiers on the ground, another 800 are on standby, waiting for the order to move in and help out. "If we're asked to dig people out, if we're asked to take people to hospital, we will," said Brig.-Gen. Walter Holmes.

Toronto's mayor, Mel Lastman, made the plea on Wednesday. The city's works crews have been operating flat out since the start of the year and with yet another storm blasting through the region it seems unlikely they will be able to keep up.

Lastman has pleaded with businesses to tell their employees to stay home and give the crews a fighting chance against the 80 centimetres of snow that has fallen in recent days. The mayor's suggestion has been echoed by the head of the Toronto Transit Commission. David Gunn says transit users should "Stay home. If it's snowing, I would stay home. That's my best advice."

City officials are also asking people to check on the elderly and any others who may have difficulty getting out of their homes. Lastman says there are seniors and handicapped people who are trapped indoors because of the high snow drifts and are running out of food.

The Toronto Blood Centre is also running out of a precious commodity - blood. The centre says it has less than a 24-hour supply for its 61 hospitals across central Ontario. Emergency clinics have been scheduled for Saturday to help the centre stock up. It is urging healthy adults to give blood as soon as they can.

The storm that is battering Toronto is also being felt throughout southern Ontario and in parts of Quebec. In some parts of Quebec the temperature has plummeted to -30 degrees. Hydro Quebec says that in spite of the increased demand for power, it isn't having any trouble coping.