Third body recovered near High River
CALGARY / TORONTO – RCMP have recovered the body of a woman from flood waters near Turner Valley Saturday morning.
It’s believed to be the same woman who was reported missing after her mobile home was swept away Thursday.
RCMP Insp. Garrett Woolsey says they’ve received reports of a fourth body being swept down the river, but police have been unable to verify the claim.
A state of emergency remains in High River but water levels have dropped nearly two metres since the flood hit on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the City of Calgary says its flooding situation is improving, but it will take some time before water levels go down.
Residents in a portion of one of those neighbourhoods—the high ground portion of Discovery Ridge—have been allowed back.
Later today, officials are hoping to open up portions of six more neighbourhoods that didn’t flood, but they are warning evacuees to stay away until they are told their area is safe.
Officials say it could be midweek before access to the city’s downtown is fully restored.
The RCMP have confirmed that three people are dead as a result of flooding in the High River, Alberta area.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Patricia Neely told reporters three were dead and two bodies were recovered. The two bodies recovered are the two men who had been seen floating lifeless in the Highwood River near High River on Thursday, she said.
WATCH: Calgary officials update on Elbow River flooding
The RCMP is asking all High River evacuees to register at evacuation shelters in the nearby towns of Blackie and Nanton to help determine the number of missing persons.
This news comes as the city of Calgary remains under a controlled evacuation of the entire downtown core and state of emergency.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew in from Ottawa to tour the hardest-hit areas with Premier Alison Redford.
“I’ve seen a little bit of flooding in Calgary before,” he said. “I don’t think any of us have seen anything like this.”
Flanked by Redford and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, he said he knows residents are going through a “very difficult time.”
“If we just encourage everybody to stay optimistic, stay patient, we’ll get through this.”
Calgary’s downtown core between 9 Avenue and the river from Macdonald Bridge to 14 Street West was announced closed as of 5 p.m. local time Friday, according to a release from the city. Only local traffic will be allowed, but Calgarians are being urged to avoid non-essential travel.
WATCH: Stampede park under water
During a call-in to Global News’ Calgary newsroom, Calgary police chief Rick Hanson commended the city’s inter-agency cooperation. Hanson also praised the ongoing media coverage of the flood, urging citizens to stay informed while ignoring unsubstantiated rumours.
He debunked a non-existent boiled water advisory for the city as well as false claims that the dams were at the breaking point, stressing that you should disregard information that isn’t being validated by the city website, news media or a reliable source.
In fact, drinking water quality in Calgary remains high, although a release has asked residents to limit water use as much as possible.
Flood waters in southern Alberta have forced thousands of people to higher ground and prompted 1,200 soldiers to be ready to provide humanitarian aid.
“Currently we have 600 soldiers either already in southern Alberta, or on the way to southern Alberta from Edmonton,” said Canadian Forces west spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Wright on Friday morning.
The Canadian Forces were asked to assist by the Alberta government and RCMP. By Friday evening, there will be an estimated 1,300 troops deployed to provide flood relief efforts in the province.
The soldiers from CFB Edmonton will be in three different areas in the province, including Calgary and Kananaskis.
Calgary’s mayor says just over two dozen neighbourhoods have been evacuated and most of the estimated 75,000 displaced people are staying with family and friends, with about 1,500 people in evacuation centres.
Calgary has been dealing with overflowing water from two rivers that run through the city and converge downtown.
About 350,000 people work downtown, but only a small fraction of them were there Friday. Office towers were ordered closed before the high water took hold, and officials confirmed water had swamped the interior of the Saddledome, home to the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
Water was also as high as the roofs of the chuckwagon barns at the grounds for the upcoming Calgary Stampede fair, and certain locations of the main artery to the city, the Deerfoot Trail, were closed Friday afternoon due to “continued rising water” according to Calgary Police.
Roads and highways throughout southern and southwestern Alberta have been washed over or hit by mudslides. In Calgary, power and gas were shut off to affected areas. Some homes not in the water zone also lost utilities due to the way the system is set up.
“I grew up here. I spent a lot of time on the Bow and Elbow Rivers and I have never seen the river that high or that fast,” Nenshi said at a news conference Friday morning. Around 10 a.m. local time, he said the Elbow River had peaked.
“The Bow River, when I saw it, looked like you were looking at an ocean. And I was there standing on that same bridge in 2005 and this is no comparison,” Nenshi said Friday morning. Officials expect the flow on the Bow River will remain steady for the next 12 hours, if things don’t change.
Watch: Incredible aerial footage of flooding in downtown Calgary
Early Friday both Harper and Redford pledged a coordinated response to flood-affected areas.
“I spoke with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and updated him on what the Government of Alberta and affected municipalities are doing to deal with the catastrophic flooding in Alberta,” Redford said in a statement. “I am very pleased that the Prime Minister pledged the federal government’s full support in our ongoing recovery and rescue efforts.”
Watch: Global News reporter Sarah Offin provides the latest from Elbow River
Watch: Alberta Premier Redford’s full news conference on the flood updates Friday morning
The premier also praised the dedication of volunteers and the efforts of first responders, and promised that the province will provide financial aid for flooded communities. She warned that communities downstream of Calgary had yet to feel the full force of the flooding.
Video: Interview with Fire Chief Bruce Burrell on Calgary’s downtown evacuation
Deputy police chief Trevor Daroux expressed concern about the possibility of looters taking advantage of the thousands of empty homes.
“That’s why we have a plan in place,” Daroux said. “And as we evacuate the area, we will be backfilling with security forces.”
Watch: Incredible aerial views of flooding across Southern Alberta
The flood was forcing emergency plans at the Calgary Zoo, which is situated on an island near where the Elbow and Bow rivers meet. Lions and tigers and other exotic carnivores were being prepared for transfer, if necessary, to prisoner holding cells at the courthouse.
Schools, court trials and transit service in the downtown core were cancelled Friday. Phone service was cut off and cellphone coverage was spotty.
Meanwhile, several communities in southern Alberta are under a state of emergency after recent rainfall that forced evacuations around the province. Banff National Park was hit especially hard and the Trans-Canada highway was washed out in some parts after Cougar Creek spilled its banks.
The city of Medicine Hat also braced for major flooding, with a state of emergency declared as of 1 p.m. local time. Evacuation centres were being set up Friday in case they are needed over the weekend, since officials expect the South Saskatchewan River to crest on Saturday.
Officials reported a significant jump in river levels on Friday afternoon in Redwood Meadows, and all work crews have been ordered to leave the townsite immediately. RCMP are working to get people out of their homes, as a result of an emergency evacuation.
The Town of Canmore has declared a local state of emergency after a deluge of rain.
Officials in High River estimated half of its people have experienced flooding in their homes. People had to be rescued from rooftops by boat or in buckets of heavy machinery. Others swam for their lives from stranded cars.
Watch: Combine rides through flooded streets of High River
The Canadian Forces said it pulled 31 people off rooftops in southern Alberta.
Three helicopters were used Thursday to rescue the people stranded in the flooded High River area, south of Calgary.
Watch: Emergency crews rescue stranded High River residents by boat, while a man gets a lift out of the flood waters
It is expected that 354 soldiers will be sent over the next 24 hours to help flood victims in the region.
Another six helicopters have also been dispatched.
Watch: Helicopter rescue of stranded man in Banff
Near Black Diamond on Thursday, the Highwood River also swept away two people.
Alberta’s municipal affairs minister said the government will move quickly to help the affected communities.
“It’s beyond a doubt that this is a disaster situation, that we’re going to have to manage very quickly. People need to move because, once the floodwaters subside, people don’t want to wait to see what’s going to happen,” said Doug Griffiths.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press
© Shaw Media, 2013