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Federal aid for tornado victims up in the air, Van Loan says Add to ...

Communities hit hardest by the string of twisters that tore through Ontario this week will have to wait to see if they qualify for federal aid.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said Saturday that Ottawa has an emergency response program in place to assess whether damaged areas warrant federal assistance.

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The aid decision will be the result of a calculation carried out over the coming days, said Van Loan, who was touring homes wrecked by a tornado that touched down two days earlier in Vaughan, Ont.

"It's not a political thing. It's a complex mathematical formula," Mr. Van Loan said.

While municipalities and provinces had the first level of responsibility to communities ravaged by the storm, the federal government is available to assist "when we can," said Mr. Van Loan.

Officials in Vaughan estimate at least 600 homes were damaged by Thursday's twister and more than 40 are beyond repair. The destruction was so bad that the city had declared a state of emergency.

"I am struck by the degree of damage that has been wrought," said Mr. Van Loan as he stood in front of a home whose roof had been ripped off.

"It is remarkable that the level of personal injury is as low as it is."

The string of twisters also claimed the life of an 11-year-old boy in Durham, Ont. and left hundreds homeless.

Vaughan Mayor Linda Jackson and York Regional police Chief Armand La Barge accompanied Mr. Van Loan as he took in the tornado's aftermath.

"There's still a lot of devastation," said Ms. Jackson, adding that all parts of the city were pulling together to restore a degree of normalcy as soon as possible.

"It's going to be a long time before some of these residents are back in their homes," Ms. Jackson said as she hugged and consoled homeowners who stood in the streets, gazing up at the shambles that used to be their homes.

Ms. Jackson later said the state of emergency would be lifted by 6 p.m. Saturday.

Environment Canada also confirmed tornado touchdowns in Newmarket and Milton, and was investigating whether damage in the Collingwood area was caused by a twister.

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