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Wednesday, January 7, 1998 Published at 09:21 GMT



Despatches

Toronto

In eastern Canada, hundreds of thousands of people have been left without electricity following the worst ice storm in the area's history. In southern Quebec and eastern Ontario roads have been closed, flights cancelled and businesses shut down. Lee Carter reports:

In the province of Quebec 750,000 homes lost electricity after pylons toppled and collapsed under the weight of ice and snow. Several municipalities around Montreal declared a state of emergency.

In Montreal itself, the province's most populous city, an estimated 15,000 trees have been damaged by the storm. All the city's municipal workers have been recruited in a massive clean-up effort.

The city has also opened emergency shelters for those left without electricity and heating. The electricity service, Hydro Quebec, has sent repair crews all over the province but the utility says it is overwhelmed by the scale of the repairs and may ask for help from the United States and neighbouring provinces.

According to Hydro Quebec, most people affected by the loss of power are unlikely to see their electricity restored for several days. This part of Canada is no stranger to bad winter weather.

Several feet of snow and a temperature hovering around -20C are normal. But an ice storm which deposits huge chunks of hail and freezing rain and turns streets into sheer treacherous ice can cause unforeseen havoc.

Meanwhile, meteorologists are warning more bad weather is on the way.





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