Minister defends Igor response

James McLeod
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People sat divided on the two sides of a washout between the community of Petley and Brittania on Random Island in this file photo.


Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O'Brien is defending the government's response to hurricane Igor, saying it did have a plan for responding to the storm.

O'Brien said while the provincial government does not have an overarching emergency management plan in place, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services was tracking the storm for roughly two weeks before it hit.

He said as it became clear Igor would hit the province, the plan for responding to it came together.

"Every plan, if we were to have a flood in Badger or if we were to have something else happen on the west coast, the plan would look different," O'Brien said. "You don't have a

cookie-cutter type plan that fits every event that might happen in Newfoundland and Labrador."

The provincial government has drawn criticism after documents came to light which show officials waited four days after the storm to call in federal military assistance.

Especially on the hardest-hit Bonavista and Burin peninsulas, people have questioned why the military wasn't called in earlier.

But a senior official within the federal Department of Public Safety said as far as people in Ottawa can see, the province handled the Igor response quite well.

"It's easy to be an armchair quarterback long after the disaster has passed," the official said. "The military works best when they have a specific task to perform.

"They need to be given very specific orders."

O'Brien and Premier Kathy Dunderdale have said until local officials had a sense of the damage, and what specific assistance was needed, calling in the military would have been a mistake.

The string of emails and reports obtained by The Packet in Clarenville indicate in the days immediately after Igor, the provincial government thought they had a handle on the situation, and federal officials offered assistance multiple times before military personnel were called in.

But again, the federal official said in context, that's common for disaster response situations.

"It is not unusual to be saying 'here are the resources we have,'" he said, adding that having provincial officials assess the damage was probably the right call.

"Local people on the ground tend to be a much greater asset."

O'Brien said he was proud of the response government officials mustered in the days following Igor, such as repairing all of the road breaches within 10 days of the storm.

"It couldn't have been done, in my mind, any better," he said. Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Department of Fire and Emergency, Department of Public Safety, The Packet

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Bonavista, Ottawa Clarenville

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