Canada's oil capital shut for days

2013-06-23 13:36
Downtown Calgary stands flooded with rising waters from torrential rain and swollen rivers in Calgary, Canada.

Downtown Calgary stands flooded with rising waters from torrential rain and swollen rivers in Calgary, Canada. (Dave Buston)

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Calgary - Southern Alberta braced for more disruption on Saturday from floods that killed at least three people, forced about 100 000 from their homes and blacked out the centre of Canada's oil capital, Calgary.

Communities to the south and east of Calgary were on high alert as flood waters moved across the region. But with rainfall easing, a few residents began returning to damaged homes and authorities were hopeful that the worst might be over.

"It's morning in Calgary! Sunny, water levels are down, and our spirit remains strong," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said on Twitter. "We're not out of this, but maybe have turned (the) corner."

The floods followed about 36 hours of unusually heavy rainfall - some communities received six months of their normal rainfall in under two days.

Evacuations started on Thursday in Calgary and in smaller cities. Utility Enmax switched off power to central Calgary on Friday afternoon lest water damage its downtown facilities, and the area was still without power and closed to cars on Saturday.

Eerily quiet

A few tourists and residents strolled in the carless streets of the city's core, but the area was eerily quiet.

Officials were unable to say how much it would cost to repair flooded homes and rebuild roads and bridges washed away by the murky brown floodwater.

Canada's main oil-producing region in the north of the province, was not affected, although some farmland was flooded, which will likely weaken crops that include wheat and canola.

Police said three bodies had been found near High River, south of Calgary. A fourth person may still be missing.

"A lot of Albertans have faced disasters the likes of which the majority of us could never imagine," Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths told a news conference.

In Calgary, authorities said water levels were expected to drop in the coming days. But the Bow River was still flowing at around five times its normal rate.

Essential operations

Nenshi said downtown could be off limits until the middle of next week "at the earliest," forcing companies to work from alternative sites.

A spokesperson for Imperial Oil, Canada's second-largest producer and refiner, said the company was working on plans to maintain essential operations, including allowing employees to work from other locations.

It was not clear when trading in Canadian crude oil would resume after little if any occurred on Friday.

Shorcan Energy Brokers, which provides live prices for many Canadian crude grades, operated out of Toronto on Friday rather than from Calgary, although no trades in Western Canada Select heavy blend or light synthetic crude took place.

Net Energy Inc, the other main Calgary crude broker, was closed on Friday and no trading took place.

Many roads and bridges remained closed, and the city banned the use of tap water for car-washing or other outside activities because treatment plants take more time to process the sludgy water. But Nenshi said Calgary water was still safe to drink.

Read more on:    canada  |  floods
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