Monday 20 October 2014

Toronto storm causes chaos in city

Published 09/07/2013 | 06:52

A train is stranded on flooded tracks in Toronto following a severe thunderstorm (AP/The Canadian Press, Winston Neutel)
Stranded passengers are rescued from a flooded train in Toronto (AP/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)
Water rises in a train stranded on flooded tracks in Toronto (AP/Micheal Li via The Canadian Press)

A severe thunderstorm has caused flash flooding in Toronto, cutting power to at least 300,000 in Canada's largest city, shutting down subways, and leaving about 1,400 passengers stranded for hours on a commuter train filled with gushing water.

Environment Canada said some parts of the city had been drenched with more than 3.9in (10cm) of rain in the storm, easily beating the previous one-day rainfall record of 1.4in (3.6cm) in 2008.

Toronto police and firefighters used small inflatable boats to rescue commuters from a 10-car, double-decker Go Transit train that stalled in floodwater that reached up to the lower windows. Murky brown water spilled through the bottom floor of the carriages, sending passengers fleeing to the upper decks

A Metrolinx spokeswoman said power was shut off and the windows were cranked opened to provide ventilation. The train was carrying about 1,400 passengers during the evening rush-hour.

"There's a full-on river on either side of us... We. Are. Stuck. Hard," passenger Jonah Cait wrote on Twitter. Another passenger told the TV news network CP24 that she could see people clinging to trees after abandoning their cars on a flooded highway alongside the tracks.

Police and firefighters used inflatable boats to ferry all 1,400 passengers a short distance to higher ground. It took until about 12.30am local time to complete the rescue operation, about seven hours after it began. Passengers were transported to a nearby subway station to resume their trip home. Emergency officials said five or six people were treated at the scene for minor injuries, but no-one needed to be taken to hospital.

Go Transit said that the storm had left portions of track "completely under water'' on several lines. It said the extent of the damage to the tracks was not yet known, but expected services "to be impacted" and suggested passengers seek alternative ways to travel.

All of Toronto's subway service was temporarily halted due to power and signal issues. Some stations were also flooded. Partial service later resumed but large parts of the system were still shut down.

The storm left the central core of the city dotted with abandoned vehicles, some sitting in water up to their windows. One woman, in a T-shirt and shorts, dove head-first through the window of her marooned car before wading away in the thigh-deep currents.

As many as 300,000 Toronto Hydro customers lost power. Toronto Hydro said about 100,000 customers were still without electricity as of 2am local time, primarily in the west and north-west parts of the city. The utility could not say when it expected full power to be restored. Another utility, Enersource, said power was cut to about 80% of Mississauga, a suburb of 700,000 west of Toronto.

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