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Toronto runs out of gift cards for ice-storm victims

A downed tree hangs over the wire mesh of a recreational back stop near Livingston Rd. and ToynbeeTrail in Scarborough, December 30, 2013

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Gift cards to help feed people affected by the ice storm in Toronto ran out quickly at several locations Tuesday, leaving many empty-handed.

The $100 cards are being funded by the province and retailers, but estimates of the need quickly proved too low.

"They were obviously on the light side of the numbers," Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told reporters during a visit to a distribution spot that had run out. "We certainly know now that there is a very high demand out there."

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Mr. Kelly said he was "quite taken aback" by the number of people who came seeking the gift cards.

More than $160,000 worth of gift cards have been distributed so far, and in total, roughly $460,000 has been pledged to the gift-card initiative, according to a statement by Ontario's Community Safety Minister, Madeleine Meilleur.

The provincially supplied cards – $100 for families and $50 for individuals – were to be available Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 15 Ontario Works sites. A spokeswoman for Premier Kathleen Wynne said that more cards were to be made available later Tuesday.

"There has been an overwhelming response this morning to the province's assistance to replace food they may have lost as a result of the storm," Zita Astravas said in an e-mail late Tuesday morning.

Toronto Hydro hopes Tuesday – Day 10 – will see power restored to the remaining 60 or so customers still without power.

"Our hope was last night," said Toronto Hydro spokesperson Tanya Bruckmueller, adding that the snowfall slowed down the restoration efforts on Monday night.

"We're also getting new calls in from people that might have been away for the holidays [and] are coming home and realizing that they don't have power," she said.

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There are also about 100 customers, whose residences required repairs to their own equipment, who are in the process of being reconnected, Ms. Bruckmueller said.

The remaining outages are scattered throughout the city, including Scarborough – the hardest hit area – Leaside and East York, she said.

And as Toronto Hydro's efforts wind down, the City of Toronto is gearing up for a massive cleanup. The City of Toronto will begin collecting tree debris from residents by the end of this week. Residents are asked to place any tree debris, including limbs and branches, on their curbs by January 2 for pick-up, according to a city website. The city advises people that workers cannot collect debris off private property.

With a report from Evan Annett

How did you cope with the ice storm and power outages? Share your story here.

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