CALGARY, Alberta, (Reuters) – Power outages in the Canadian oil capital of Calgary could last for weeks or even months, city authorities said yesterday, after record-breaking floods that killed three people and forced more than 100,000 to flee their homes swept across southern Alberta.
Some Calgary residents were able to return to sodden homes as river levels slowly dropped and some mandatory evacuations orders were lifted.
But Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said power restoration in the downtown core, where many of Canada’s oil companies have their headquarters, could take days, weeks or even months.
Many of oil companies were making plans for employees to work from home.
“This is an evolving situation and because of the volatility of electricity and water and the infrastructure that was damaged we have got a lot of issues with restoring power to different parts of the city of Calgary,” Alderman John Mar told CBC radio.
“We are facing an absolutely gargantuan task.”
Heavy rains were blamed for 750 barrels of synthetic oil spilling from a pipeline approximately 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta early on Saturday.
“We are still investigating the cause, however, we believe that unusually heavy rains in the area may have resulted in ground movement on the right-of way that may have impacted the pipeline,” Enbridge, Canada’s largest pipeline company, said in an emailed statement.
The company also has shut down two major oil pipelines serving Canada’s oil sands region as a precaution.
Provincial authorities said it was too early to count the cost of the flood damage because rivers have not peaked in some places.
The South Saskatchewan River is expected to burst its banks in the city of Medicine Hat in southeastern Alberta on Monday. About 10,000 people have been evacuated.
The floods already look significantly worse than those of 2005, which caused C$400 million ($383 million) in damage in the western Canadian province.