Premier Danny Williams got a first-hand look at the magnitude of the damage wrought by hurricane Igor as he toured part of the province Wednesday by helicopter.
“This is worse than we’ve seen,” Williams said as he flew over Random Island.
“I’ve never seen as much damage compacted in a small area.”
Williams, along with Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson, Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman and Education Minister Darin King, left St. John’s Wednesday morning to begin the tour on the Burin Peninsula.
The group met up with Trinity North MHA Ross Wiseman and Bonavista South MHA Roger Fitzgerald in Clarenville before flying over Random Island.
Williams is set to tour the Bonavista Peninsula today.
“We’ve seen a lot of damage to personal homes and to infrastructure,” Williams said.
“I’m glad I saw it because it gives me, and the ministers that were with me, an idea of the magnitude; the value of what we have to tackle here.”
The politicians craned their necks to see out the helicopter’s windows to witness the destruction below.
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Not much was said during the flight, but you could hear sighs as Wiseman described the plight of the communities below.
People looked like ants beside the giant craters in the washed-out roads.
Only rubble remained where some houses once stood and you could only see rooftops of some buildings that were severely flooded.
Williams said the damage in the affected areas of the province is comparable — with washouts and a lot of residential damage in St. Lawrence, residential damage in St. Bernard’s–Jacques Fontaine and a major washout in Petit Forte, to name a few.
“We have damage that goes all the way from central Newfoundland to the east coast and all the way down to the southern part of the province,” he said, noting the province has a big job ahead of them.
“Not only do we have a lot of individual homes … but then we’ve got the whole commercial piece (and) infrastructure piece that’s got to be done. We’ve got so many sites.
“Normally, it’s regionalized and you can go in and blitz it and get (repairs) done fast, but we have to attack this on multiple fronts — which is exactly what we will do.”
Hedderson agreed, saying, “We’re going to fast track it all, but we’re on a timeline.”
“The main thing right now is to establish the basic (road) links and even if we make some temporary solutions so that we can carry through in the spring with the finished product.”
He added the Trans-Canada Highway should be open within a couple days.
The Williams government will compensate people for repairs made out of pocket.
Williams urged any resident that wants to make a claim to take pictures or video of the damage and keep invoices for submission.
Although he couldn’t confirm if full or partial compensation would be awarded, he said, “that’s something we’d have to work out with, with the federal government. We do get disaster relief compensation from the Federal government … it will be provided.”
He added he was delighted with the co-operation between all levels of government.
In Ottawa, politicians were also getting involved. Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his concern, and said relief would be available through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements. “We will continue monitoring the storm closely, and remain in close contact with provincial authorities to respond to any urgent requests,” Harper said.
“This is worse than we’ve seen. ... I’ve never seen as much damage compacted in a small area.” - Premier Danny Williams
Peter MacKay, minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador, also said he’s closely involved in the Igor response.
In the House of Commons, St. John’s MP Jack Harris said that more assistance may be required.
Random-Burin-St. George MP Judy Foote also sent out a news release expressing her condolences to the family of an 80-year-old man who was killed on Random Island.
“While I am relieved that hurricane Igor has passed, my heart goes out to the family of the 80-year-old man from Lower Lance Cove who has not been located after being swept under water by the force of the storm. My prayers go out to his loved ones during this difficult time,” Foote said.