Alberta government approves $1 billion for flood relief; evacuation order lifted for many Calgarians
Watch above: Alberta Premier Alison Redford pledges $1 billion in flood aid, confirming it will affect the budget and that the province is not looking to offload any flood costs to the municipalities.
CALGARY, MEDICINE HAT, Alta. and TORONTO – The Alberta government has approved $1 billion for the first phase of emergency recovery and reconstruction funding for southern Alberta residents. The announcement comes after news that apart from Calgary’s downtown core and one neighbourhood block, evacuation orders were lifted for homes across the city.
“Yesterday, we promised that our government would take steps to help the more than 100,000 displaced Albertans that were affected by this flood,” said Premier Alison Redford in a release. “Today we’re taking action.”
WATCH: Calgary mayor said the province’s announcement is a wonderful start, but he suspects the final damage costs will be much higher
The government will provide pre-loaded debit cards to those who have been evacuated and are still displaced to help with their immediate housing needs and day-to-day expenses.
Those who qualify will receive $1,250 per adult and $500 per child.
Eligibility criteria and distribution plans are still being finalized, but the province expects to have the cards in place by mid-week.
WATCH: Calgary flood reconstruction underway as other communities deal with crisis situations
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge offered their best wishes to the Lieutenant-Governor and Premier of Alberta and to the “brave emergency services and all those volunteering to help their neighbours,” in a release issued Monday afternoon.
“Catherine and I have been saddened to learn of the deaths and destruction caused by the unprecedented flooding throughout the Province of Alberta,” said the release, signed WILLIAM. “Please be assured of our continued thoughts and prayers for all those caught up in the flooding.”
The royal well-wishes came after Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the flow out of the Glenmore Dam on the Elbow River was under control, and that crews had been able to manage the flow on the Bow River “very well.”
“We are at one third of what we were,” he said. “We’re still very high, much higher than the maximum in the 2005 floods. So again…it is very dangerous out there. We are still in a local state of emergency and we will be renewing that state of emergency.”
Nenshi added that rivers are flowing fast, and described them as murky and very dangerous. He urged residents to stay off riverbanks and river pathways, warning that people could be “washed away at any moment.”
WATCH: Calgary Mayor has lots of good news, but warns city is still in state of emergency
The long clean-up process has begun, and Calgarians have been advised to stay out of the downtown core Monday and Tuesday to allow work to continue. The mayor didn’t think anyone would be returning to work downtown until at least the middle of the week.
Gallery: Calgary begins flood clean-up, Medicine Hat watches rising water
Interactive map: Alberta flood warning update
Data updated 6:20 PM MDT – June 23, 2013
Advisory: | Watch: | Warning: | Live flood monitoring:
Source: Alberta Environment
The city remains in a state of emergency, originally declared Thursday as water levels rose in the Bow and Elbow Rivers. Ten thousand residents remain evacuated, but all health facilities in the city are functioning, according to the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
Despite the flood damage, Calgary Stampede officials said they plan to run the event as scheduled July 5-14, in an announcement Monday morning.
Building owners and property managers are being asked to enter the downtown core area to conduct assessments on their properties. Once building assessments are complete and power is fully restored, final evaluations will be done by city resources before the area can be fully opened to the public.
Power to most buildings in the northwest portion of the downtown core was restored Monday afternoon.
WATCH: Focus of flood disaster shifting from response to recovery, says provincial official
Residents have been warned there is still a long way to go before the city and its downtown would be back to normal.
The impact of the high water extended well beyond residential neighbourhoods. The Saddledome hockey arena, home of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, was extensively damaged. The team has said boards, dressing rooms, player equipment and several rows of seats are a total loss.
The quality of drinking water remains high, but Mayor Nenshi asked residents to limit their usage and avoid doing laundry. He added that there is plenty of fresh water, and Calgarians don’t need to stock up on bottled water.
Operations at Calgary International Airport remain on schedule, and surrounding roads to the airport remain unaffected. Check yyc.com for up-to-date flight information.
In addition, the number of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) on the ground in the province reached more than 2,200. CAF has been using helicopters to evacuate people from Canmore, has set up a water purification unit in Canmore and has provided support in High River and Medicine Hat.
Premier Alison Redford appointed three associate ministers to take charge of regional reconstruction and recovery, and likened their work to that of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams the Canadian military introduced in Afghanistan.
WATCH: Armed Forces colonel says they are winning the “home game” in Southern Alberta
Floodwatchers in Medicine Hat, Alberta announced Monday morning that flooding wouldn’t be as severe as initially feared, after water levels on the South Saskatchewan River peaked in the early hours of the morning.
“We believe the crest has occurred and we have seen the worst of the flooding,” the city said in a release to the media.
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency said schools in Medicine Hat would remain closed until Wednesday, and that an emergency shelter had been set up at Medicine Hat College.
WATCH: Raw video shows extensive flooding in Medicine Hat on Monday morning
Nenshi gave strict orders earlier in the day about what to watch for as residents re-entered their neighbourhoods, but he also redirected people’s focus downstream. He said communities such as Medicine Hat were still bracing for the fury of flooding and his city would offer whatever assistance it could.
“We’ve turned a corner, but we are still in a state of emergency,” he said. “Our hearts and thoughts and prayers are with our colleagues downstream.”
The closed sections of the city are being patrolled by police to guard against possible looting.
People in High River, the community hardest hit by the flooding, didn’t have much reason for optimism. Mayor Emile Blokland said there was still no timeline for when almost 13,000 evacuees would be able to return.
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency emphasized the importance of leaving High River, and urged the remaining residents who chose not to comply with the evacuation order to leave their homes.
WATCH: High River remains in state of emergency
Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said that about two dozen communities in total were under states of emergency – with some improving and some bracing for more flooding.
The Siksika First Nation, an hour’s drive east of Calgary, said about 1,000 residents had to leave their houses and seek shelter in emergency centres. The province issued a mandatory evacuation order for much of the aboriginal community as the rain-engorged Bow breached its banks.
The community of Morley, part of the Stoney Nation west of Calgary, was also under an evacuation order and was dealing with waterlogged homes, and the Tsuu T’ina reserve on the southwest edge of Calgary said homes and an area golf course had been damaged.
A flood watch was also in effect for Edmonton as the North Saskatchewan River and its creeks rose to engulf park green spaces, walking trails and bike paths in the deep river valley snaking through the city. Some sandbagging was being done in low-lying areas.
Police confirmed Sunday evening the body of an 83-year-old woman who did not evacuate her apartment was found near the Elbow River in Mission, Alta. Duty Insp. Steve Ellefson said the woman was in a ground-floor apartment and wanted to stay behind because she had a cat.
Ellefson said the building was flooded, but that it wasn’t known yet if her death was flood-related or was due to a medical condition.
Prior to her death, there were three fatalities attributed to the floods that have swept over communities in southern Alberta.
With files from Emily Mertz, Nick Logan and The Canadian Press
LIVE BLOG: Follow along for the latest details on the State of Emergency in Calgary
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