12/25/2013 07:21 EST | Updated 02/24/2014 05:59 EST

Toronto ice storm: Thousands in the dark on Christmas Day

It's Christmas morning, but tens of thousands of Toronto residents are still waiting for electricity to be restored after an ice storm blanketed the region over the weekend.

Hydro crews are working non-stop to get the lights back on and the number of outages continues to dwindle, though some customers may have to wait until the weekend to see their power restored.

"This has been a very challenging four days," Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said at a media briefing Wednesday morning.

About 72,000 Toronto Hydro customers are still blacked out, down from a high of 300,0000, and Hydro One is still coping with more than 30,000 outages.

Ford urged residents to take advantage of warming centres in their communities to ward off the cold.

"I went by a few buildings yesterday and I tried to convince people to go. They just don't want to go, for some reason or another, and it seems like the seniors are the ones that don't want to go. They just want to tough it out," Ford said.

"It is supposed to be warming up in the next couple of days but tonight is going to be very cold again. We encourage people to use our community centres and our police divisions. They will get a warm meal, they will get a cot, you will get a blanket, you will get a shower, everything that you need is available there."

Ford said forestry crews from other municipalities are helping clear tree debris throughout the city but the clean-up is expected to take as long as six weeks.

Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines crews are working around the clock to restore the outages.

"We are asking our customers to continue to give us some patience. Soon you will see Toronto Hydro crews on your street, or crews from other jurisdictions that are helping us, and you'll begin to see some of the neighbourhoods being restored," Haines said.

"You won't see the numbers coming down by the thousands, as we did in the early days ... you're going to see them coming down by ones. They are literally going to be one, two, three, four ... We will not stop until the work is done."

Power Stream, which covers the region north of Toronto, says 12,000 customers are still down, and Veridian Connections, which serves the Pickering and Ajax region east of Toronto, had about 4,000 outages.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Two children and two adults in east-end Toronto have reportedly been taken to hospital to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

The apartment, at 35 Confederation Drive in Scarborough, was without power and the occupants were burning coal to keep warm. The extent of injuries is not yet known.

All four occupants — including the children, aged two and three — were brought down dark stairwells from the seventh floor by emergency crews.

Toronto fire Chief Jim Sales says crews are fielding 10 to 12 times the normal volume of carbon monoxide calls.

"It's still a challenge," he said.

"I think people need to hear the message that devices that are made for outdoor use like your charcoal barbecues, your gas-powered barbecues, generators — please keep them outside. I realize and understand the situation, the cold homes, but please do not make your homes more unsafe."

At least 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.

The ice storm was among the worst of its kind to hit the city in recent memory.

It left the city’s transit system with major problems throughout much of the weekend, particularly the streetcars which were suspended from service for a number of hours on Sunday.

The ice that fell also weighed down the branches of trees, which then fell onto cars, buildings and power lines.