Hundreds of troops to help Canadian province recover from huge blizzard

Pile of snow is pictured outside a house in St John's, Newfoundland And Labrador, Canada January 18, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. J. David Mitchell/via REUTERS

OTTAWA (Reuters) - (Corrects the spelling of the defense minister in the first paragraph)

Between 150 and 200 Canadian troops should be in the Atlantic province of Newfoundland and Labrador by the end of Sunday to help it dig out from a massive blizzard, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said.

The armed forces will also provide two transport planes and at least two helicopters. The storm dumped up to 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).

Many major roads are totally impassable. Although a state of emergency remains in the town, authorities said on Sunday that gas stations and pharmacies would be allowed to reopen.

“Probably by the end of today you’ll have about 150 to 200 personnel on the ground ready to provide support. This could surge up to anywhere between 250 to 300 by tomorrow and the coming days,” Sajjan said on the sidelines of a cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The troops would be a mix of reserves already in the province and soldiers arriving from elsewhere, he added.

Conditions could continue to be difficult, since Environment Canada is predicting an additional 10 cm of snow starting on Sunday night.

“We really need to get the roads opened ... we need to make sure we get better access to the hospital,” St. John’s mayor Danny Breen told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Andrea Ricci