Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King says, although there is still a lot of work to be done before things get back to normal on the island, there has been quite a bit of progress after post-tropical storm Fiona wreaked havoc across the province Saturday.
During a live news conference Wednesday, King assured Islanders there has been an “all hands on deck” approach, with crews working all hours of the day.
“We’re doing everything we can and even more to make our way through this as fast as we can,” said King during the news conference.
As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, more than 53,000 Maritime Electric customers were still without power on P.E.I. – about a third of customers according to King.
The premier took a moment during Wednesday’s live news conference to thank everyone involved in the island’s clean up and restoration efforts.
“When we look at the big job that is ahead of us, it can be daunting sometimes. But it is you and so many others who give us the inspiration to keep going and when we say those words, ‘We will get through this,’ it’s because you are giving us that inspiration and comfort, so thank you,” he said.
CLEAN UP EFFORTS AND DEBRIS DROP-OFF
King said his province has partnered with about 30 private landowners to open up debris pits beginning Thursday in communities across the province.
A list of locations for debris pits is available online.
King says these sites are for brush and yard debris only. They are not for construction or demolition material.
Anyone unable to transport their yard debris can call their local Access PEI line.The department will start a list and work with local contractors to visit properties and help with debris clean up and removal.
“Islanders who need help with cutting fallen trees on their property, or moving that large debris curbside because it is a safety hazard, you should call Access PEI as well to have your name put on that list,” said King. “This service will not start until the demand for road cleanup efforts have been reduced, but if you’re in an emergency situation where you need a driveway, or access approved, that will be prioritized as well.”
All waste watch drop-off centres will reopen Thursday. King says centres in Brockton, New London, Murray River, Dingwell Mills, and East Prince will operate on extended hours until Oct. 15.
King says residents can drop off items, like spoiled food and waste, free of charge to these centres until Oct. 15.
“I’d also like to say, if you can get your bin to the corner, our regular waste watch bin collection will begin and resume tomorrow,” he said.
The staff at Access PEI locations is also available to answer questions and help navigate through government and other community services for those who are impacted by Fiona.
King says Access PEI sites will be opened as power is restored across the province and buildings are deemed safe to go in.
“We’re still very much in the recovery mode of this, but I do know that rebuilding is on the minds of thousands of Islanders who need it,” King said. “When we look at the sheer volume of the work that is ahead, we know capacity in our construction industry will be a challenge.”
SUPPORT FOR ISLANDERS
King said he has been meeting with cabinet regularly to discuss the support Islanders need at this time.
“As a start, we have set aside $50 million for program support and financial assistance to begin,” he said. “Some of this has already been announced. There will be more details to share of how that will be rolled out, but we have our eyes wide open in knowing that might just indeed be a start to what we need to find our way through this.”
Matthew Mackay, the minister of Economic Growth and Tourism on P.E.I., announced a number of one-time financial supports that will start next week and were created to help Islanders during this difficult time.
MacKay said these supports include:
$150 for each social assistance and assured income recipient and their dependant
$150 for each social housing household, including mobile rental voucher and rental supplement recipients
$150 for each household registered with the seniors independence initiative
$100 one-time grocery voucher to any household with an Islander over the age of 65
Islanders who have previously received a one-time grocery voucher will automatically receive another $100 grocery voucher the same way they did previously.
Any household with Islanders over the age of 65 can apply for the voucher on the government’s website or by calling 211.
MacKay says support will also be provided to many non-profit organizations across the island.
“Our priority is to ensure that Islanders are safe and have what they need to be safe and as comfortable as possible,” he said. “As of today, $200,000 will go to The Adventure Group to offer continued and extra services at the community outreach centre to administer funding to other community support organizations.”
MacKay says about $500,000 will also go to over a dozen community organizations to support the basic needs of their clients. Another $500,000 will go towards P.E.I. food banks, and $240,000 will go towards residential NGO’s who provide support to Islanders with disabilities.
The province has also been working with municipalities to support Islanders who are in need of food. He says they are working on making sure all P.E.I. reception centres are offering food to their visitors. Any Islander in need of food should visit their closest reception centre.
“If you do not have access to transportation, or are in an emergency situation and are in need of food, please call 211 for assistance,” said MacKay.
MacKay warns the 211 line is very busy, and asks Islanders for their patience when trying to call.
POWER RESTORATION EFFORTS
Kim Griffin is the sustainability and corporate communications manager for Maritime Electric. During Wednesday’s live news conference, she provided an update on the power company’s restoration efforts so far.
As of Wednesday, Griffin says 124 crews are on the ground throughout P.E.I., with 31 more crews on the way to help.
There were also 488 power poles down across the island, as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, according to Griffin.
To date, about 28,000 customers have been restored, which represents about 34 per cent of Maritime Electric’s customers.
Griffin provided an update with percentages on how many people are still without power in different regions of the province.
For the western side of P.E.I., about 48 per cent of customers are still without power.
In the Charlottetown area, about 57 per cent of customers remain without power.
In the province’s central area, Griffin says there are still about 80 per cent of customers without power.
On the eastern side, about 82 per cent of customers are still waiting for power to be restored.
“With that being said, it’s really important as you see the restoration efforts that we made over the last couple of days, that we are in much better shape than we were yesterday,” said Griffin.
Griffin says she speaks with her crews several times a day, who all remain optimistic.
The director of P.E.I. EMO, Tanya Mullally, said Islander’s safety continues to be the province’s top priority.
The province provided a list of safety precautions residents should be taking during different steps of the restoration effort.
The province says, for those still without power, the following steps should be taken ahead of it coming back:
Make sure stoves and other fire hazards are turned off, so they do not pose a fire risk when the power is turned on.
Do not attempt to remove trees either close to or directly on power lines.
Stay away from all power lines for your own safety, and so crews can do their work as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible.
Any Islanders running a portable generator, carbon monoxide safety should be top of mind:
Portable generator exhaust can be deadly.
Keep generators 20 feet away from doors, windows and vents.
Make sure the fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors or other openings in the building.
Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.
Never use outdoor cooking units such as camping stoves, barbeques or butane burners inside your home or near your windows and doors.
Carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are essential safety tools. If you are running a generator, make sure your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are in good working order. If you do not have a carbon monoxide and smoke alarm, it’s time to purchase one.
How to handle spoiled food is also something all Islanders should be aware of. During prolonged power outages:
Food that is normally refrigerated must be discarded after 24 hours without power
Frozen food must be discarded after 48 hours without power
If it can be done safely, food should be separated from packaging and placed in the green cart
Packaging should be placed in waste or recycling according to Waste Watch guidelines available at Island Waste Management Corporation.
If sorting can’t be done safely, place the packaged food in the black cart.
Wash hands carefully after dealing with spoiled food. Clean any surfaces that comes into contact with spoiled food.
The province says Ground Search and Rescue crews have also been working at full capacity to knock on doors and perform wellness checks on Island residents in need.
Any Islander in need of a wellness check can email [email protected] or call 1-833-796-0642, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.