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Up to 900 Calgarians to live in temporary trailer parks

Kevan Yaets crawls out the back window of his pick up truck with his cat Momo as flood waters sweep him downstream and submerge the cab in High River, Alberta on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. Hundreds of people have been evacuated with volunteers and emergency crews helping to aid stranded residents.


Two weeks after historic floods hit Calgary, the long-lasting nature of the damage is starting to show.

Thousands are still out of their homes, and the city now says up to 900 Calgarians who will not be able to return for as long as 12 to 18 months will be sheltered in three temporary trailer parks.

Seniors forced to leave their subsidized housing units in the city's badly flooded East Village could be residents in the temporary neighbourhoods – as boilers, electrical panels and generators are restored in their buildings – along with renters and homeowners whose houses need extensive repairs.

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Those without nearby family and friends, or without the means to find housing alternatives on their own, are the hardest hit.

"It will be a difficult situation for some of the residents for some time," said Lawrence Braul, chief executive of the Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta, one of the largest seniors' housing organizations in the city.

On Wednesday afternoon, city officials said they were waiting for confirmation from the provincial government that it will pay for the three temporary neighbourhoods, each housing about 300 people. The sites will be up and running within two weeks.

"These are sites that are already ready for construction," said Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, adding the locations will be kept under wraps for now.

Even though the city's state of emergency declaration is set to end Thursday, the massive job of cleanup and rebuilding work continues, as well as the push to find shelter for everyone uprooted.

Already, a 1,000-person site is being established for High River evacuees in an industrial park in the city's southeast – with room to expand if the provincial government decides it needs more land. Thousands of southern Albertans are still living in shelters, or are couch-surfing with family or friends. Many are locked out of their houses, condos or apartments – some buildings remain badly damaged, or without power, natural gas or other services. The city believes as many as 49 multifamily buildings affected by the flood, mainly downtown, still don't have electricity.

"That's a lot of displaced Calgarians," Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

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Homeowners with serious flood damage are waiting to hear what portion of their uninsured losses will be covered by the province – besides the up to $10,000 that's already been offered. The city says about 25 homes are marked with a "black dot," which means they either need massive renovations or to be bulldozed.

The cost of demolition is another stress on these homeowners. David Allan's Bowness house is now missing a large portion of its foundation and is precariously tilted towards his back deck. He said he was told by city officials earlier this week that government – the province, he assumed – would pick up the cost of demolition, but now is unsure what will happen.

"In round numbers, it's $40,000 to demolish that house," Mr. Allan said Wednesday. "Now they've stopped it. And not only have they stopped it, no one can tell me why, or what the next step is."

Mr. Burrell said city officials only condemn a home as a last option, in the same of public safety, but no one is squabbling about who picks up the bill at this point.

"Somebody has to pay at the end of the day. Either it's going to be the insurance company, it's going to be the homeowner or it's going to be the city."

Mr. Burrell said if the city pays the cost of home demolition, as it has already in one case, it will try to recover the money from the province.

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