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Canada's government to help Newfoundland dig out after massive blizzard

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s federal government will help Newfoundland on the Atlantic coast dig out in the wake of a massive winter blizzard that buried cars and left thousands without power, a Cabinet minister said on Saturday.

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The storm dumped as much as 76.2 cm (30 inches) of snow on St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland, and packed wind gusts as high as 130 km per hour (81 mph). The snowfall was an all-time record for the day for St. John’s International Airport.

St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen said earlier that a state of emergency declared on Friday remained in effect. Businesses were closed, as was the international airport.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said military reservists might be called in, but details of the assistance had yet to be worked out. The immediate priority will be snow removal and clearing roads to the snowbound hospital, he said.

“We have a real issue right now with access to the hospital,” O’Regan told reporters in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is meeting for two days in a what it has called a retreat.

Commenting on the scale of the blizzard, O’Regan said: “It’s snow and a hurricane, and snow and a hurricane shuts down a city.”

The public safety and defense ministers, who were en route to Winnipeg, would be able to provide more details later, O’Regan said. Earlier, the provincial premier asked the government for support, including “mobilizing the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Thousands remained without power, and social media showed people had begun to literally dig out of their homes after snowdrifts blocked their doorways.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) confirmed a report of an avalanche slamming into a home in St. John’s Battery neighborhood, which sits at the entrance to the city’s harbor on the slopes of a steep hill.

A picture of the home on Twitter showed the living room filled with snow. The CBC also said a 26-year-old man has been reported missing after having set out to walk to a friend’s house on Friday during the blizzard.

“Help is on the way,” Trudeau tweeted.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Paul Simao and Jonathan Oatis

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