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Friday, January 9, 1998 Published at 23:57 GMT


Ice causes chaos in Canada
image: [ Residents clear up after the ice storm brought down trees and power lines across Canada ]
Residents clear up after the ice storm brought down trees and power lines across Canada

Canada is at the mercy of its worst ice storm on record.

A state of emergency has been declared in parts after more than three million people were left without power.

Sean Eckford reports from Ottawa for BBC News 24 (1' 57")
Ten people have died and more than 100 people are being treated in hospitals in southern Quebec and eastern Ontario, mostly from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning from home generators.

The five-day ice onslaught has claimed the lives of three elderly people in Montreal, one of the worst affected areas. A couple were killed in one of the many housefires and a 90-year-old woman died of hypothermia after refusing to leave her unheated home.

Blizzards have also drifted across the American border, badly affecting New England.

[ image: Many roads, even major highways, are impassable]
Many roads, even major highways, are impassable
About 2,400 people unable to spend another night in homes without light or heat were using public shelters in Montreal.

"It's a disaster," said Colette Fontaine, currently staying at a makeshift shelter in one of Montreal's libraries. "I've lived all over Canada and it's the worst ice storm I've ever seen."

Hundreds of thousands of trees have been damaged by the storm and many electricity pylons toppled over or snapped under the weight of snow and ice.

At a standstill

BBC's Lee Carter reports from Toronto (1'42'')
Ottowa and Montreal airports were closed on Friday and the main railway line between Toronto and Quebec is out of action.

More than 4,000 troops are working to clear roads and help restore power. However, operations in the Montreal area were hampered by a further eight centimeters of freezing rain.

Hospitals have cancelled all but essential surgery.

Powerless against the elements

Dozens of power cables have collapsed under the weight of thick ice.

Electricity companies in Quebec, the worst hit province, say it could be up to seven days before power is restored.

[ image:  ]
Fire officials blamed several fires on the power cuts and two deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning on faulty electrical generators and heaters.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada predicted that damage claims could be in excess of CA$500 million (US$350 million). This would make it the most expensive natural disaster Canada has ever experienced.

Weather experts predict it will be Monday before the big freeze begins to thaw.

The same weather system has been blamed for flooding in the United States which killed nine people - five of them in one small area of Tennessee.

In the south, the rain tapered off late on Thursday but dozens of schools were closed, roads were blocked by mudslides, and rivers burst their banks from Mississippi to Virginia.

Once again, meteorologists are giving some of the blame to the El Niño weather system.

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  Relevant Stories

07 Jan 98 | World
Ice storm devastates eastern Canada

07 Jan 98 | Despatches
Ice storm wreaks havoc in Canada

02 Dec 97 | Special Report
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  Internet Links

Environment Canada: The climate of Atlantic Canada

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