ALBERTA

High River Flood Information Expo: Volatile Exchanges Between Residents, Politicians Mark Event

08/08/2013 03:29 EDT | Updated 08/08/2013 04:09 EDT

Emotions ran high and tempers flared as flood-weary High River residents, frustrated by what they've been through and fearful of floods to come, faced off against province officials Wednesday night.

Police officers and security guards stood on the perimetre of an over-flowing crowd that packed into the gymnasium at Senator Riley Middle School, for an information expo aimed at sharing with the community what the province was doing to get the town hardest hit by the June floods back on its feet.

Municipal Affairs minister Doug Griffiths was bombarded with questions by residents demanding to know what was being done to prevent similar flood devastation from happening again and what the future holds for those whose homes have been deemed unsafe for habitation.

“We’ve had our own structural engineers come in and deem the houses unsafe,” Hampton Hills resident John Badduke told the Calgary Herald.

“So tear the damn things down. Give us our market value and let us carry on.”

But Hampton Hills is not in a floodway, which means residents will not get bought out and will have to re-build, Global Calgary reported the panel as saying.

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Nearly two months after the town, located approximately 35 km south of Calgary, became the hardest hit by the southern Alberta flood and had to be evacuated, many residents still have more questions than answers.

It took nearly a month for contractors and provincial crews to drain some communities, communities that after the flood resembled more giant lakes than neighbourhoods.

Thousands are still unable to return home, hundreds of High River homes have been deemed uninhabitable and there is little guidance for some of those hardest hit on how to proceed.

What High River residents were after was answers, but what they walked away with was the knowledge that there is no quick fix for those who lost their homes, that the Highwood River is being scraped to increase the volume of the tributary and that Griffiths expects an engineering report in a few weeks.

That wasn't enough for resident Steve Hanulik.

“Where are the reassurances, backed up by scientific facts, that tell us our home is going to be safe, our ground is going to be safe, our water's going to be safe, our air is going to be safe and things like that,” Hanulik told the CBC.

Frustrated politicians spoke over frustrated homeowners as residents sought explanations as to why the warnings and evacuations were so slow in coming, the Calgary Sun reports.

“Everything happened so quickly that at 7 a.m., we put in the state of local emergency,” the Sun quoted Mayor Emile Blokland as saying.

“By 9 a.m., we were evacuating neighbourhoods.

"At 9 a.m., we darn well knew what was hitting us and it wasn’t pretty."

Seven weeks after the historic flood, many High River residents remain in a temporary housing project resembling an oil patch camp in southwest Calgary. Others are moving into Saddlebrook, a temporary community for displaced residents and that at full build-out will accommodate as many as 1,200 people.

In the end, for many, the meeting only managed to create resentment amongst already anguished residents, Global reported.

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