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Flood-evacuated Calgarians return home

By Katie Schneider, Calgary Sun

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To donate to the Alberta Floods Fund, visit the Canadian Red Cross.

For Information on loved ones or to register yourself as 'Safe and Well,' click here.

CALGARY -- As 65,000 Calgarians began returning home Sunday following the largest flood in Alberta's history, Premier Alison Redford vows they won't be alone as they rebuild their lives.

While the historic flood waters continued to recede slightly Sunday, Mayor Naheed Nenshi delivered good news to waterlogged Calgarians, giving the green light for 65,000 residents displaced to begin returning home if the dwellings are deemed safe.

Since torrential rain caused the Bow and Elbow Rivers to swell and flow furiously, several times faster and higher than the city's flood in 2005, about 75,000 people were evacuated from more than two dozen communities beginning last Thursday.

Some were allowed to return Saturday and on Sunday afternoon, the mandatory evacuation notice was lifted for most communities, allowing those 65,000 back home but with a checklist to follow to ensure it was safe to enter.

On Sunday the Elbow River was flowing at 225 cubic metres per second -- down from 680 cubic metres per second seen before -- and the Bow was at 1,220 cubic metres per second.

Those high flows, the scale, speed, scope of the disaster and its impact to communities makes this flood the largest in the province's history, but the government is ready to help, said Redford.

"It's been a devastating and emotionally overwhelming experience for the people of southern Alberta and indeed for all Albertans -- this disaster is completely unprecedented," she said. "There's a lot of families who will wake up tomorrow morning and they will be afraid.

"Life will not be normal ... but we want them to know there is a plan in place."

Redford appointed three associate ministers to help rebuild and reconstruct on the ground level -- Rick Fraser for High River, Greg Weadick for southeast Alberta, and Kyle Fawcett for southwest Alberta.

It's a model Redford said she learned in a rebuilding Afghanistan.

The Alberta Treasury Board will hold an emergency meeting Monday to deal with resource allocation.

While the cost of the disaster is still being assessed daily, it will be more than the $172-million Slave Lake, Alta., fire, in 2011, she said.

"We fully understand the financial impact this is having on families in Alberta and communities in Alberta is devastating and that families need immediate assistance," she said.

The government will use its Disaster Recovery Fund to help clean up and help people rebuild, and the province will work to provide support for short- and long-term infrastructure needs.

"The complexities of the recovery and rebuilding will be immense, but your government is mobilizing and we will do what's necessary to get the job done."

Calgarians who began to return home Sunday could only stay in their homes if sidewalks and roads were dry, there was no flood water upon reentry, and no water was above outlets in basements.

Any problems like a lack of gas or electricity had to be written boldly on a standard piece of paper taped to their front windows.

Residents of Roxboro, Inglewood, Bowness, Bridgeland, Chinatown, East Village, Elbow Park, Rideau, Erlton, Mission, Stanley Park, Elboya, Sunnyside, should check a map on the calgary.ca website to see if they are still in the red zone and if they are, they cannot return.

Katie.schneider@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNKSchneider

 


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