Much of the downtown area of the western Canadian city of Calgary has been evacuated due to floodwaters that have claimed at least three lives. Up to 75,000 people have been forced from their homes.
The floods are the heaviest in decades and have swept through southern Alberta, washing out roads and bridges. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said three people are dead, with two bodies recovered near High River, a town of about 13,000 located 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Calgary. Several people are still missing.
The evacuations have affected 75,000 people in 25 Calgary neighborhoods. Around 350,000 people work in the city's downtown area, but police said far fewer people needed to be evacuated as many heeded the advice not to go to work on Friday.
Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper toured the region on Friday by helicopter, saying officials don't yet know if the situation will worsen.
"Members of the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces are already on the ground helping with search and rescue, evacuation and other logistics and our government stands ready to provide all the support required," Harper said in a statement.
Around 1,300 troops have been deployed to help in the flood zone.
The mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nehshi, said water levels had peaked, but had not yet started to decline. The premier of Alberta state, Alison Redford, warned that communities downstream from Calgary were still to receive the full force of the floodwaters.
More than 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) of rain has fallen in parts of southern Alberta in just two days. At least 220 millimeters (8.7 inches) had fallen in 36 hours in the Alberta mountain town of Canmore. This is equal to nearly six months of normal rainfall.
"The flooding situation is very acute in the foothills and the mountains," said Chris Scott, the Weather Network's director of meteorology.
"Now all that water is rushing downstream and that's why the situation is so bad in Calgary. This is an unprecedented flooding event," said Scott.
Calgary, a city of more than a million people, is known as Canada's oil capital. The city hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.
jr/lw (Reuters, dpa, AP)