Calgary, Alberta join forces to house High River evacuees

Water still surrounds many homes even a week after the deluge in the flood-ravaged northeast area of High River, Alberta on June 29, 2013. Residents in some of the less damaged areas were allowed to go back to their houses.



CALGARY -- High River, Alta., flood evacuees will be able to seek refuge in Calgary at a temporary housing camp being set up by the city and province.

At a morning briefing Sunday, Bruce Burrell, director of Calgary's Emergency Management Agency, said city and provincial officials are working together to set up temporary shelters for those who had to flee their homes in the town south of Calgary, which was the worst hit by the province's largest flood.

Likely set up similar to a work camp with trailers and located in the Great Plains Industrial Area, the site could accommodate up to 1,000 people.

"Yesterday we started the scraping, gravelling and compaction of that site and it will be set up over the next couple weeks," Burrell said.

"We've been asked to provide a certain size piece of land, which we provided, and it had to have access to utilities, water, sewer, and electricity and there is work going on and we are in the process of signing an agreement with the province for that site."

Meanwhile, the city is continuing to assess homes and businesses in Calgary for damage and have already flagged 127 buildings that may need demolition.

Four have already been slated to be knocked down.

Burrell said city officials continue to make plans for those who may lose their homes, but it's too early to tell if temporary housing will be needed for Calgarians.

"We are still trying to identify numbers -- it's no good for us to go to the province right now say you need to help us find housing for 2,000 people if we are only going to use 400," he said.

"We still have space available where we can do temporary accommodation for a period of weeks that will allow us to assess and determine what we need to do for more permanent accommodation."

Power has been restored in the city, but some large buildings have silt build up in their electrical components, in major switches and panels, and will require replacement.

"So you're looking at very significant upgrades and changes to electrical systems in a lot of these buildings -- they are going to have to bring in electrical engineers and, in essence, the electrical system for the building has to be redesigned," he said.

Some apartment and office buildings downtown may be without the power for six to eight months resulting from damage to electrical systems as well as, in some cases, boilers and heating ventilation systems.

"As a result of these systems being underneath water ... it's done a significant amount of damage to the systems in these buildings," he said.

Many buildings in the east end of the core, including some seniors' facilities, are getting individualized assessments as to their state of repair.

"There is the likelihood we may have to start consideration of relocation of individuals out of structures that will be out of service for a period of months," he said.

The state of emergency for Calgary is due to expire on Wednesday, but Burrell said it may be lifted earlier.

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