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Toronto Food shortage latest challenge for frozen-out Torontonians

From left: Ayesha Barakzai, 12, her sister Khadijah, 13, and their father sit with Lawrence Heights Middle School principal David Labelle while they enjoy a pancake breakfast hosted by the Toronto District School Board in Toronto on Dec. 25, 2013.

Jon Blacker/The Globe and Mail

The city of Toronto is asking for food donations after the number of people seeking shelter from the lingering effects of the pre-Christmas ice storm hit a new high.

Mayor Rob Ford told a Wednesday briefing that about 1,000 people stayed last night at the warming centres scattered around the city and that the total tonight could be higher.

"We are asking for food, there is a shortage," he told reporters, flanked by leaders of the city agencies dealing with the clean-up. "If we could get people to donate non-perishable foods … [that] would be great."

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Food can be brought to warming centres and local police stations. For health and safety reasons, homemade food cannot be accepted.

The number of customers without power was down to about 69,800, each of which typically represents two to three people.

Mr. Ford said again that there was no need to declare a state of emergency. Asked if he saw any downside to doing so, he cited the fear of sparking public panic.

Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines did not offer an estimate of when everyone would be reconnected, saying that they still don't know the extent of the damage and how much outside assistance they'll be getting. He warned that the work will become slower as the bigger-impact repairs are completed.

"It's a one-by-one type of strategy," Mr. Haines said. "So you won't see the numbers coming down by thousands as we saw in the early days, or tens of thousands … you're going to see them coming down by ones. They are literally going to be one, two, three, four."

Officials have warned people about the deadly risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as some residents are reported to have used equipment designed for outdoor use — like gas powered generators, charcoal stoves and barbecues — inside their homes.

Two children and two adults in east-end Toronto were taken to hospital to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning Wednesday morning after using a charcoal barbecue indoors.

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And two people died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Newcastle, Ont., east of Toronto, on Monday after trying to keep warm with a gas generator in a garage.

Meanwhile, Hydro One, which serves 1.3 million customers in Ontario communities that include Guelph, Peterborough and Walkerton, had about 30,000 customers still without power.

Power Stream, which serves Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan, said about 6,700 customers in those cities were still without hydro. And Veridian Connections, which serves the Pickering and Ajax areas east of Toronto, said about 2,500 customers were still affected.

In Quebec, Hydro-Québec deployed extra crews to restore power, but as of Christmas morning 14,000 customers remained without electricity. Most are in the Eastern Townships, where Christmas Eve was celebrated by candlelight.

In New Brunswick, 30,000 customers were still in the dark.

More than 14,000 of the outages are in the Saint John area, but people in Sussex, St. Stephen, Moncton and Fredericton are also shivering in the dark.

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NB Power has said customers will have to wait until Saturday before power is restored.

There was good news in Nova Scotia though, where all power to affected customers had been restored by Christmas Day.

With files from Ingrid Peritz and The Canadian Press

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