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Goodale tours Ottawa area destroyed by tornado, says feds ready to provide help


DUNROBIN, Ont. — Canada's public safety minister says the federal government is playing a supporting role to provinces and municipalities as they back recovery efforts for communities battered last week by multiple tornadoes in the national capital region.

Ralph Goodale toured the Ontario community of Dunrobin, west of Ottawa, where locals are still reeling after a powerful tornado ripped through the town. He said some of the modern homes hit hardest in the area looked like they had gone "through a grinder."

Environment Canada says six tornadoes swept across the Ottawa area and through the neighbouring Quebec region on Friday — levelling homes and knocking out power grids along their way.

Conrad Sauve, the president of the Canadian Red Cross, said Tuesday that more than 1,500 people in Quebec and Ontario had registered with the organization. He said the Red Cross had provided shelter to over 600 residents, primarily in the Quebec city of Gatineau.

Goodale said the federal government has not provided financial assistance because the first portion of response and recovery costs are covered by the provinces. But Ottawa will step up if the price tag reaches a certain level, he said.

Federal assistance after large-scale natural disasters is determined by a formula under Canada's Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers have been in tornado-ravaged areas to ease pressure on local forces, Goodale said. He added there was an informal request for federal help with surveillance and mapping of impacted areas.

For many people in the Ottawa and Gatineau areas, the road to recovery will be a long journey.

Volunteers — working against rain and cold wind — made their way through Dunrobin's demolished neighbourhoods Tuesday to help put tarps on damaged homes.

Sabrina Gill, 29, watched from a warm truck in her driveway as volunteers took stock of her home and covered areas to prevent water from seeping in.

"I have no idea where these gentleman are from and they're amazing," she said. 

Perry Landers, 49, who led a team of volunteers to Gill's home, said even if he could help just one home it would be "fantastic." He added he's prepared to go house to house to help people in need.

Gill's home sits at the entrance of one of the most badly damaged neighbourhoods in Dunrobin. The storm tore the roof from her garage and launched its contents across the lawn. 

While Gill's home had yet to be fully assessed, she said it wasn't as bad as her parent's house — which is a write off. Their home has been photographed and plastered all over the news, she said.

For now, Gill's parents are staying in a hotel until they receive more information about their home.

Gill said the plan is to take apart what's left of the house "gently" in hope of recovering more items. She's not sure if she can handle watching the home come down, saying she lived there before purchasing her own house in the same neighbourhood.

"It was two homes to me that were both lost... that one has even more memories," she said.

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press

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