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Harper to tour Newfoundland hurricane damage

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper will tour areas of Newfoundland on Friday that were damaged by hurricane Igor.

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper will tour areas of Newfoundland on Friday that were damaged by hurricane Igor.

The Prime Minister's Office said he is heading to the province after his speech and other events Thursday at the United Nations General Assembly.

Meanwhile, crews hoped to reopen a section of the Trans-Canada Highway in central Newfoundland on Thursday, two days after Igor's potent winds and rains carved a deep crater in the main roadway.

Emergency workers were bringing in gravel and other supplies to fill a 20-metre wide and 20-metre deep hole that cut off traffic flow between one half of the province to the other.

RCMP Sgt. Boyd Merrill said he expected the highway would be usable late in the afternoon, but would be open only to emergency vehicles carrying in supplies to the dozens of communities still cut off by road washouts and collapsed bridges.

"There will be priority-type basis placed on all travel," he said. "It will be for power and light equipment and private and government vehicles needed to ensure the safety of the public."

It's expected the repairs will allow critical supplies to get into the Bonavista and Burin peninsulas that were left isolated after rains of up to 240 millimetres chewed away portions of many main roads.

Merrill said the highway's reopening would allow crews to replace a bridge on the Burin and connect 22,000 people on the southern peninsula to the rest of the province.

About one-third of the Bonavista Peninsula remained cut off and without power due to heavy winds that reached 163 km/h in some areas when Igor roared past the island early Tuesday.

Police confirmed Thursday that the storm was linked to one fatality. Merrill said the search for 80-year-old Allan Duffett on Random Island had been turned into a recovery mission since he had been missing for more than 48 hours.

"Police recovered a piece of clothing downstream, giving us belief that he had succumbed to his injuries," he said. "We'll be having the police service dog doing further searches of the area."

Duffett was reportedly swept away by a torrent of water near Britannia, about 100 kilometres northwest of St. John's.

The Department of Transportation and Works reported another washout Thursday that closed the Trans-Canada Highway between Gambo and Gander. Officials said traffic was being re-routed.

Police were also urging people to limit their purchases of fuel in some areas after gas supplies were depleted by consumers nervous about shortages.

Merrill said all gas stations on the Burin were out of fuel and those on the Bonavista were in danger of running out.

Officials said it's likely roads should be reopened for supply vehicles in the next 48 hours. He expected power would be restored within that time period as well.

Bob Pike of Newfoundland Power said there were roughly 15,000 customers still without power, mostly around St. John's and on the Bonavista.

Other pockets around Eastport and St. Bride's were still in the dark, but Pike expected to have power restored to all areas by Saturday.

All of the utility's crews were working on the problem, with many being ferried into remote communities by helicopter to remove trees from downed power lines.

Pike said they're getting help from repair crews from Alberta and P.E.I.

 
 
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