TORONTO (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - The death toll from powerful thunderstorms in Canada’s two most populous provinces this weekend rose to at least eight, authorities said on Sunday (May 22), as emergency crews continued a massive clean-up to restore power to half a million people.
The storms, which lasted more than two hours on Saturday afternoon and packed the power of a tornado, left a trail of destruction in parts of Quebec and Ontario, Canada's most populous province.
Emergency crews were inundated with calls after the storm uprooted many trees, disrupting traffic and damaging homes.
Police said one person died and two others were injured after a tree fell on their camping trailer in Brant County, in southern Ontario, while a woman in her 70s died after being hit by a tree during the thunderstorm.
In the federal capital Ottawa, another person was killed by the storm, but local police declined to give further details.
The fourth victim was a woman in her fifties. She drowned when her boat capsized in the Ottawa River, which separates Ottawa and Quebec, during the storm, the CBC reported, citing local police.
Preliminary reports on the federal government weather agency’s website said five people died and a few others were injured as a result of the strong winds, which reached 144 kilometres per hour. The death toll rose to eight, the CTV News television channel said on its website on Sunday citing police reports.
Most of the deaths from the storms occurred when people were hit by falling trees, authorities said.
Electricity companies were scrambling on Sunday to restore transmission lines.
Hydro Quebec and Hydro One said they were mobilising crews after as many as 550,000 and 351,000 clients, respectively, were left without electricity, the companies said in separate statements.
Hydro One said it anticipates it will take “several days” to restore power to all customers, while Hydro Quebec declined to provide a time frame “due to the large number of locations” affected.
Ontario is home to nearly 40 per cent of Canada's 38.2 million population.
Emergency operations have been activated to assess the damage and threats on the ground, said Mr Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa, Canada's capital city.
Environment Canada, which issued mobile alert warning of the severe thunderstorms, said wind gusts of 132kmh were measured at the peak in some parts.
Residents took to social media to post images of the trail of the destruction by the dangerous storm, which lasted more than two hours.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government was ready to help those in need.
“We’re thinking of everyone affected, and thanking the crews who are working to restore power,” he tweeted on Sunday.