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Alberta premier says flood recovery could take a decade

(Courtesy: The Canadian Press)
(Courtesy: The Canadian Press)

Staff writers

June 25, 2013 — Alberta premier says flood recovery in southern Alberta could take a decade, but glimmers of hope continue to shine through.

Kananaskis Country Public Safety Section shared this incredible aerial photo of the flood damage in Canmore
Kananaskis Country Public Safety Section shared this incredible aerial photo of the flood damage in Canmore

Long road to recovery

Nearly all of the 75,000 residents that were evacuated in Calgary can return home, though Mayor Naheed Nenshi is warning of potential safety hazards. 

Another glimmer of hope on Monday was when Calgary Stampede organizers announced that the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth would be ready to go in just 10 days

As mud is cleaned up and buildings begin to dry out, the province approved an initial $1 billion to kick-start flood recovery. 

"We are going to do, please listen to my words, whatever it takes to get everyone back to a place where they can continue to live their lives," Premier Alison Redford said, adding that recovery could take a decade. "I don't want to scare people...But when we talk about what's going to happen, we're talking about a 10-year plan." 

The money provided will be used to support people who were forced from their homes, as well as to run relief centres and to start rebuilding infrastructure. 

Redford says the government will provide pre-loaded debit cards to displaced residents to help with their immediate housing needs and day-to-day purchases. Those who qualify will receive $1250 per adult and $500 dollars per child. 

In the Town of High River a local state of emergency remains in place with no word when the 13,000 evacuees will be allowed to go home. 

The deluge in Medicine Hat was not as bad as originally feared, but about 1,000 homes were still hit by high water. A small number of the 10,000 evacuees were allowed back on Monday, but city officials said the rest must wait until their homes are inspected, noting that while streets may look dry, basements could be filled with a mix of storm water and raw sewage.

(Courtesy: The Canadian Press)
(Courtesy: The Canadian Press)

Symbols of generosity everywhere

From friends and family pitching in, to neighbours and strangers offering support, signs of generosity are everywhere. 

Three little girls raised $150 for the Red Cross with a lemonade stand; a Grade 8 class worked to clear debris from the home of their teacher's brother; hundreds crowded a football stadium parking lot and waited in line for the chance to sign up as cleanup volunteers.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wrote the prime minister, passing along their sympathies to those affected by the severe flooding in Alberta.

"Catherine and I have been saddened to learn of the deaths and destruction caused by the unprecedented flooding throughout the Province of Alberta," says a note from Prince William, released by Stephen Harper's office. "Please pass on our best wishes to the lieutenant-governor and premier of Alberta and to the brave emergency services and all those volunteering to help their neighbours during this ongoing period of intense efforts. Please be assured of our continued thoughts and prayers for all those caught up in the flooding."

Canadian Forces scaling back

Some soldiers are expected to stay on to help in High River and Medicine Hat, but a lot of the Canadian Forces troops brought in at the height of the flooding are likely to stand down in the next few days. 

The Canadian Forces mobilized 2,300 troops, including a number of helicopters and several light armoured vehicles, but Alberta's municipal affairs minister says much of the threat has passed. 

"The urgency of the situation has been reduced," said Doug Griffiths Monday night. "We don't have flood waters coming down the river and we're not sandbagging or anything like that...Our military has a lot of talent and a lot of specific skills that they bring to the table, a lot of unique equipment they bring to the table but it would be inappropriate to abuse those resources or to have some of the best trained military force in the world standing around and waiting to see if there's anything else they can do." 

Officials say the military is not in the business of service provision, which as pumping water out of people's basements.

With files from The Canadian Press

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