Salute the Workers and People of Southern Alberta

26 Jun

From http://www.cpcml.ca

Devastating Southern Alberta Floods

Salute the Workers and People of Southern Alberta

More than 175,000 people across southern Alberta were forced to evacuate their homes due to massive flooding caused by heavy rains that began late last week. On Monday, June 24, 27 communities were under a state of emergency, although several were rescinded later in the day. Three people lost their lives, drowning in the raging Highwood river which runs through the town of High River, 37 kilometres south of Calgary. In particular, the towns of High River, Canmore, Bragg Creek and the City of Calgary have been severely impacted. Siksika, Tsuu Tina and Stoney First Nations have also been hard hit by the floods. Over 75,000 people in 25 Calgary neighbourhoods were under a mandatory evacuation order over the weekend and the entire communities of High River and Bragg Creek were evacuated. By Monday afternoon, most Calgarians had been allowed to return to their homes. They have been asked to stay home on Monday and Tuesday while recovery efforts continue in the downtown core.

TML expresses sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who tragically perished in the floods. TML expresses solidarity with the first responders and emergency personnel who have worked tirelessly to rescue those stranded by flood waters, using helicopters, trucks, combines, tractors and whatever means possible to move people to safety and shelter. TML salutes the tireless efforts of public sector and utility workers and others making enormous efforts to safeguard the water and power supply, maintain telecommunications networks, keep hospitals open, look after the sick and vulnerable, and keep people safe despite their own personal situations. TML also salutes the efforts of fellow citizens at emergency shelters who are providing for those who have been relocated.

Homes, businesses, bridges, roadways, sports complexes and government buildings have all suffered major damage. The Trans-Canada highway was blocked in several places for over 24 hours and many bridges, highways and roads are closed in Southern Alberta due to structural damage.

Those who have been evacuated from flooded communities and towns have been forced to find refuge with family, friends and in overnight shelters and residences set up by the government and the Red Cross. As well, electrical power was cut off for several days in 25 neighbourhoods in Calgary, including the downtown core. Power is slowly being restored in some areas, while in others, there is no estimate as to when power can be restored. These are the worst floods in the history of Southern Alberta. Military forces and helicopters have been called in and emergency forces from across the country are assisting.

Media reports indicate that in the City of Calgary, most of the 75,000 affected residents found shelter with friends and family, with several thousand taking refuge in emergency shelters. Calgarians are assisting in many ways, opening their doors, offering spare rooms, water, food and other items, showing the spirit and sense of responsibility people have to assist each other. People have donated large amounts of food and clothing to the temporary facilities where homeless Calgarians were re-located. The Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre which offers shelter, meals and assistance in finding employment to Calgary’s homeless was forced to evacuate from its downtown location, and its basement stores of clothing and other necessities have been lost to the floods. At its new location, long lines of cars formed as people dropped off donations of food, clothing, toiletries and blankets.

A TML correspondent visited some of the evacuation centres and spoke with residents who had made their own way to these centres. Initially, evacuation and overnight centres were set up in the southern end of the city. Within hours of the first emergency evacuation notification, several communities in the northwest sector of the city were given evacuation notices.Road closures due to the flooding posed a problem, particularly for vulnerable low income people heading to shelters. Several people TML spoke with spent the first night in their vehicles and then made their way to the centre. Others who had no transportation were driven by neighbours to the evacuation centres. Many people arrived with not much more than a change of clothes. Some of the initial evacuation centres were closed and everyone relocated to residences at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Mount Royal University and other overnight shelters set up in recreation centres around the city. Although there is an emergency preparedness plan, providing assistance to in low cost housing and without transportation was not well planned and many people had to fend for themselves in the pouring rain and flood conditions. Most of those affected have no idea when they will be able to return to their homes or what condition they will find them in.

At this time people in Southern Alberta are mainly concerned with the immediate situation they face and helping those most affected. But it is crucial that the people be involved in summing up the lessons of the flood. These floods and the devastation and damage they leave in their wake pose some serious issues for the people. One is the fact that even though these floods caused by overflowing rivers are termed “natural disasters” beyond the control of human beings, why is more not done to deal with the capacity of dams and water diversion to deal with the water flow? It is the social responsibility of governments to take more preventative measures. This emergency also shows the importance of people becoming organized in their communities and neighbourhoods to prepare themselves in a very practical way, so that the human factor, the people themselves, are the decisive organized factor in these situations.

(Photos: TML, Twitter)

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