OTTAWA—Two people died and more than a million were without power on Thursday after an ice storm hit Canada’s two most-populated provinces ahead of a holiday weekend, bringing freezing rain and strong winds that toppled trees and weighed down power lines.
Just under a million people did not have power in Quebec and about 110,000 in Ontario as of 4 p.m. (2000 GMT), according to Poweroutage.com. Outages combined for both provinces had crossed at least 1.3 million earlier in the day.
The two provinces account for more than half of Canada’s total population of about 39 million.
Electricity providers in both provinces were working to restore power, but repairs were expected to continue for days, meaning many Canadians could spend Easter weekend in the dark.
One man was killed in Quebec when a tree fell on him, Premier Francois Legault said at a briefing, cautioning people to watch out for live wires and weakened trees. Another man died in eastern Ontario when he was struck by a falling branch, broadcaster CTV News reported.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was elected to parliament in a Montreal constituency, offered to provide federal assistance if required.
“It’s a very difficult moment … the power being down for so many folks, the trees coming down, hurting buildings and cars and whatnot, is of course an ongoing concern,” Trudeau told reporters on a street in his district as crews cleaned up a fallen tree behind him.
Montreal is among the worst hit areas in Quebec, accounting for about half of the total outages in the largely French-speaking province.
“Seeing all these beautiful trees down, seeing lives disrupted, seeing similar challenges … (it) will be a difficult Easter weekend for a number of families,” Trudeau said.
Hydro-Quebec was hoping to restore power for about 70 percent of customers by Friday midnight, an executive at the utility said in a televised briefing.
“Unfortunately, it is the start of a long weekend and certain areas are more complex that we will not be able to reconnect immediately,” said Regis Tellier, Hydro-Quebec’s vice president of operations and maintenance.
In the city of Ottawa, crews were expected to restore power for a large portion of some 65,000 affected customers by noon, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said.
Some areas in the national capital “remain hazardous due to fallen debris and power outages affecting traffic signals,” Sutcliffe said.
By Ismail Shakil