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High River evacuees to start returning home on Saturday

June 28, 2013, Halifax – The Alberta government has announced that some evacuees can start returning to flood-damaged High River on Saturday.

June 28, 2013
By The Canadian Press

June 28, 2013, Halifax – The Alberta government has announced that some evacuees can start returning to flood-damaged High River on Saturday.

About 5,000 residents from the northwest part of the town will be allowed back starting at noon.

But officials caution that not all of the 1,000 homes in that part of the community may be livable because of flood damage.

For those who will not be able to live in their homes, construction of temporary housing has begun.

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Bus tours are also being organized for all residents so they can at least get a look at their homes.

"Two-thirds of this community is still under water because it is a collection bowl for the water, which means we have much more challenging infrastructure needs to meet before we can allow people
to roll back in," Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said at an update in High River.

He said there is more significant infrastructure damage in the town than ever suffered elsewhere in the province in any kind of disaster.

Griffiths said power is starting to be restored, engineers are identifying which roads are safe and health and home inspectors are on the job.

The Alberta government has taken over recovery and rebuilding efforts in High River at the request of the town's mayor.

The province says it has declared a provincial state of emergency in the community and has assumed responsibility for emergency operations, programs and services.

Mayor Emile Blokland said the floods that hit the town a week ago have been overwhelming and that it's best if the province co-ordinates getting the community's 13,000 people back into their homes.

"It's become clear that the size and scope of this disaster is beyond anything we've ever seen before in Alberta," Blokland said at an update in High River.

"It's even bigger that the destruction suffered by Slave Lake, as devastating as that was. The situation is simply much bigger, more complex and more difficult than our municipal council can handle," Blokland said.

"There are powers the province has and resources and expertise the province can marshall that are far beyond what our council can do and we'll need all those supports to get our town back on its feet."

Hundreds of homes and businesses – about one-third of the town – were destroyed two years ago when wildfires swept through Slave Lake in northern Alberta. Hundreds had to flee their homes and, as is planned for High River, were eventually allowed to return in phases.


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