By Kevin Rushworth
In an address to the media made Saturday afternoon, Rick Fraser, associate minister of High River’s recovery, said officials and town crews are working hard to turn the page to the town’s restoration.
On June 29, close to 5,000 residents of the northwest lined up under the hot sun at the rodeo grounds to receive a flood clean-up package and information as to the state of their homes.
“Certainly there are long line ups and our thoughts are with the people as they get the information about their homes and their situation today,” Fraser said.
Fraser thanked Mayor Emile Blokland and council for making the decision to allow the provincial government to step in and create a task orientation management to get people back into their homes.
“We ask for your patience in this,” he explained. “It is one of those things where safety is our main priority, but we do understand the necessity to get things going here in High River.”
He said crews continue to work around the clock as they pump water, clean streets and get people safely back into their neighbourhoods.
“We’re putting every resource into inspecting businesses, cleaning the streets and making sure that when people return to their homes, whatever colour code they are, that they can get back to normal life,” he said.
Fraser said Saturday was a big day, yet an emotional one—regardless if it was sadness or relief—for the people of High River.
“This welcome centre is open until High River gets back online and all the residents are (back in their homes),” Fraser said. “We are looking at another site for other residents of High River to get them prepared for what their homes look like.”
In the phased re-entry system, each person allowed in can bring in two visitors. Each family can bring in two visitors and two contractors.
“There is a check in by vehicle for people to come in and out,” Fraser said. “As we continue to open up the rest of the town, you can imagine there would be a lot more free flow and different access into these areas.”
Shane Schreiber, acting director of emergency management for the Town of High River, said assessments on sector two are going quite well as part of phase two.
“I am sticking to the three to five days for the next sector to be re-entered,” he said. “Those are rough numbers and best guesses based on what we know now.”
The dates could change based on what they find under the ground, such as the sewage system or gas infrastructure, Schreiber said.
In addition, he took the time to thank the Canadian Red Cross workers as well as the other volunteer crews helping out at the welcome centre.