Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Canada's most deadly natural disasters

Canada's earliest-known most deadly natural disaster was a hurricane that killed 4,000 people off Newfoundland in 1775, many of them fishermen, when scores of ships were lost. "The Rock" was also hit with Canada's only-recorded earthquake-related deaths, when tsunami waves whipped up on Nov. 18, 1929, under the Grand Banks traveled 300 km across the Atlantic Ocean. They smashed 40 villages, right, killing 30 people.

In addition to the 11 tornadoes that ripped through central and southern Ontario last month, heavily damaging more than 600 homes in Vaughan -- 38 irreparably -- and killing an 11-year-old boy in the town of Durham, deadly disasters since the start of the last century have included:

- Five children and four adults died and 25 people were injured in the Inuit village of Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec -- now part of Nunavik -- when tonnes of snow cascaded down the sheer face of a 365-metre-high cliff at 1:30 a.m. on New Year's Day, 1999 and hit the Satuumavik School.

- A January 1998 ice storm blanketed the eastern seaboard, killing 26 people in Ontario and Quebec and knocking out electricity well into the month. Most victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning from heaters, or from hypothermia.

- The Red River in Manitoba overflowed in 1997, submerging parts of Winnipeg and nearby villages. But they're used to it, since the Cree -- who warned early settlers of the danger of the "Miscousipi," or Red Water River -- were first proved right in 1826. Even trains were submerged in the big one of 1950.

- Two major hurricanes caused extensive damage on opposite sides of the country. For five days starting on Sept. 24, 2003, Hurricane Juan blew north from Bermuda and hit Nova Scotia and P.E.I winds as high as 170 km/h, leaving eight people dead and causing $300 million damage. Winds up to 152 km/h swept Halifax's harbour area with wave surges up to 2 metres causing serious erosion, felled trees, knocked out power to 700,000 people in central part of the province, damaged buildings around the city's Bedford Basin, including a hospital, high rises and 36% of the homes. The capital's worst storm since 1893 sank a pleasure schooner and left treasured Point Pleasant Park plus the Public Gardens closed for months. On Dec. 15, 2006, three West Coast storms that reached 120 km/h uprooted or snapped the trunks of 10,000 of its half-million trees (including a 200-year-old hemlock) in 400-hectare Stanley Park, a rural-like oasis on Vancouver's harbour that attracts about 8 million visits a year. A couple in their mid-60s were found dead in Burnaby, believed to be victims of carbon-monoxide poisoning caused by a power outage that left up to 240,000 BC Hydro customers with no electricity.

The complete article in the Edmonton Sun is here.

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