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Province to provide $147M in disaster relief after northern Alberta floods


EDMONTON — The Alberta government says it will provide $147 million in disaster relief for communities affected by flooding during spring ice breakup.

Several northern Alberta communities, including Fort McMurray and Fort Vermilion, had to be evacuated last month after nearby rivers spilled their banks.

"The ice jams that formed during breakup on Alberta's great northern rivers last month were some of the largest ever recorded," Premier Jason Kenney said Friday.

Ice jams happen every year during spring breakup, but he said this year was unique.

"This spring was something else — a one-in-100-year event in Fort McMurray triggered by an ice jam that at one point was 25 kilometres long," said Kenney. "It ended up driving 13,000 of our fellow Albertans out of their homes and businesses."

Another 40-kilometre ice jam on the Peace River forced about 500 people out of their homes in Fort Vermilion and neighbouring First Nations communities.

Don Scott, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, estimated there has been at least $100 million in damage and had asked the province to contribute through a disaster relief program.

Similar concerns were raised in Mackenzie County, where damage was pegged around $45 million.

The flood in Fort McMurray came four years after a massive wildfire destroyed large swaths of homes and businesses in the city.

Kenney said Albertans always come through for each other.

"We never have to go it alone in this province," he said.

Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu said the program is based on early assessments.

"We do expect that number to change," he said.

Scott said in a statement Friday afternoon that he was pleased with the amount for Fort McMurray.

"This is great news in support of our community and the people and businesses impacted by this historic flood," he said.

"While we are just beginning our path to recovery, this commitment from the province demonstrates how Albertans always come together to help each other during challenging times."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2020

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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