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Downtown Calgary fire: Crews on track to restore power by Thursday

10/14/2014 09:49 EDT | Updated 12/14/2014 05:59 EST
Crews are on track to have power fully restored to downtown Calgary by Thursday after an underground fire plunged multiple blocks into darkness on the weekend, officials say.

Saturday’s fire did extensive damage to the electrical infrastructure, cutting power to about 5,000 people and 2,100 businesses, and leaving about 3.5 kilometres of cable in need of being replaced.

Gianna Manes, president of the city-owned utility company Enmax, said confidence is high after crews made great progress over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“We continue to be on schedule for full power restore by Thursday midday,” she said.

Manes said the cause of the fire is still under investigation and there are no updates yet about how much it will cost to fully repair the damage.

“All of those costs will be known in good time when this event is over,” she said. “Our first priority is restoring power.”

Most routes are open as Calgarians returned to their downtown jobs Tuesday, said Ken Uzeloc, director of the city’s Emergency Management Agency.

However, traffic is being restricted on Eighth Street S.W. where the east lane is being reserved for Enmax workers.

The city is providing emergency accommodation at hotels for 350 downtown residents affected by the power outage, Uzeloc said.

The city has secured a lodging centre that could accommodate a larger number of people, if the number requiring help increases, he said.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said fewer than 10 per cent of the people affected by the outage are turning to the city for accommodation. "The vast majority of people are staying with friends and family," he said. 

The city set up an emergency information centre at the Mewata Armoury on 13th Street and Ninth Avenue S.W. 

Uzeloc encouraged Calgarians to reach out to people in need. People have been using #yycthanks on Twitter to offer displaced residents places to stay and other assistance. 

“Calgary has always shown how well we can deal with this,” he said.

“We need to keep helping one another. If you can help, help.”

The Eau Claire YMCA and the Talisman Centre sports facility are both offering affected residents free passes so they can have access to hot showers while they are out of their homes. 

Enmax crews are working round the clock to replace and repair the reams of cables that melted in the blaze.

“Once we get that work done, we then will have to splice the cables back together. When all the cables have been connected, the final two steps are testing the cable connections and then finally, re-energizing the entire network area that was affected,” the company said on its website. 

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