FLOODS caused by two rivers which left at least three people dead and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in southern Alberta, Canada, began to recede yesterday.
The rivers converge on the regional capital, Calgary. The city suffered extensive floods, which forced the evacuation of its downtown district.
Many of Calgary’s landmark buildings were badly damaged. The Saddledome, home to the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames, was flooded up to the tenth row, leaving the dressing rooms submerged.
Dan Limacher, director of Calgary’s water services, said the level of the Elbow river was expected to fall by 60 per cent over the next two days, while the larger Bow river was set to recede by a quarter.
Overflowing rivers on Thursday and Friday washed away roads and bridges, inundated homes and turned streets into muddy waterways around southern Alberta. Police said two bodies had been recovered but a third was in an area that made it too dangerous to retrieve.
Alberta’s premier Alison Redford has warned that communities downstream of Calgary had not yet felt the full force of the floodwaters. Medicine Hat was under a mandatory evacuation order affecting 10,000 residents.
As the sun rose yesterday in Calgary, the hub of Canada’s oil industry, the rain held off. Bruce Burrell, director of the city’s emergency management agency, said some of the 75,000 evacuees from 25 neighbourhoods, 1,500 of whom have ended up in emergency shelters, were to be allowed to return home.
He said the goal was to allow people from sections of six communities back into their homes by last night. Residents in elevated parts of Discovery Ridge have already been allowed to return.
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said late on Friday the downtown area was still without power and remained off limits. “It is extremely unlikely that people will be able to return to those buildings before the middle of next week,” he said.
Prime minister Stephen Harper, a Calgary resident, said: “This is incredible. I’ve seen a little bit of flooding in Calgary before. I don’t think any of us have seen anything like this before. The magnitude is just extraordinary.
“We’re all very concerned that if we get much more than this it could have a real impact on infrastructure and other services longer term, so we are hoping things will subside a bit.”