07/01/2013 07:37 EDT | Updated 08/31/2013 05:12 EDT

Volunteers Help High River Salvage Homes On Canada Day

Many residents of High River marked Canada Day by cleaning out their flooded homes with the help of volunteers.

Officials are limiting entry into the southern Alberta town, parts of which are still flooded, as residents who've been evacuated since June 20 return to assess the damage and begin cleaning up.

Sylvia Whitten, a 75-year-old widow with no children in Alberta, wasn’t sure how she’d get her flooded basement cleaned up, but volunteers spent Canada Day carrying ruined carpet and furniture out of her home.

“I have lots of friends, but they are all as old as me,” she said.

Brenda Denholm drove from Calgary to help out. "You feel good to help out. You see it on TV and you feel helpless and sorry for these people, so at least you can put some of that energy to work,” she said.

Next door, a church group ran a bucket brigade out of a basement window, hauling mud out of a home one pail at a time.

"It's saddening.There's a lot of mud, a lot of sewer water, lots of hard work," said Justin Moxley.

He hopes the group can bring in more volunteers soon, but only has permission for 120.

"They just limit the number of passes you're allowed. I think they're trying to control the number of people in town,” he said.

Premier visits town

Alberta Premier Alison Redford visited the town’s emergency operations centre on Monday.

“Most people are relieved to have the opportunity get home and assess their homes,” said Rick Fraser, associate minister of municipal affairs, on Monday in an interview with CBC News.

“At the same time there are a lot of tears and a lot of anxiety about what happens next for these people. The premier’s commitment and my commitment is to make sure our number one priority is to take care of the people in this town.”

Staged re-entry

About 13,000 people were evacuated from the town on June 20 when the Highwood River burst its banks. Parts of the town are still underwater and the provincial state of emergency remains in effect.

High River residents living in northwest part of the community began returning to their homes Saturday.

Business owners in High River's central commercial district were allowed back on Monday and receive information on the status and condition of their businesses. Also on Monday, residents of southwest High River become the second group of homeowners allowed to return to their homes.

The centre of town will re-open to residents on Wednesday at noon.

The Welcome Centre at the Rodeo Grounds will continue to serve as the access points for residents returning to the community.

The east end of High River remains closed to residents. Crews are working to pump roughly 151,000 litres of water per minute from the area.

Boil water advisory

While a boil water advisory is in effect, residents have had water and sewage systems restored. Water should still be brought to a rolling boil for one minute prior to consumption, brushing teeth, washing raw food and making ice.

Officials are also working to reconnect power for residents. The High River Hospital remains closed.

The nearest emergency room and urgent care centres are:

• Okotoks Urgent Care Centre — 11 Cimarron Common, Okotoks

• Oilfields General Hospital — 717 Government Road, Black Diamond

• South Health Campus — 4448 Front Street, Calgary Anyone having a medical emergency is advised to call 911.

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