06.21.2013 07:33 AM

Calgary

Like my family – now in Kingston, Toronto, North Vancouver and Winlaw, B.C. – I have been watching the news and pictures coming out of Calgary with actual astonishment. In the quarter-century-plus we lived in Calgary, we never saw anything like what is happening there this week.

My parents lived on the banks of the Bow River for many years. In all that time, there was never flooding like this – much less evacuations of thousands of people, and then evacuations of the evacuation centres.

All of it makes me wish I could do something. Any suggestions would be welcome. In the meantime, here’s a prayer that everyone back home is going to be safe.

35 Comments


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    Mike says:

    This looks like one of those 100 year events. Anyone out there know if these communities planned for this eventuality, and if so, how far along those plans had progressed? Someone in government there created this — was it followed during community expansion?:

    http://environment.gov.ab.ca/info/library/6786.pdf


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      Sean says:

      I know a little bit about disaster management, assuming such a thing even exists. I’m fairly sure they aren’t following any plans, don’t know what the plans are and any plans they have are probably out of date.


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        Elisabeth Lindsay says:

        Sean…….you may know a little bit about disaster management…….you know NOTHING of Calgarians!


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          Sean says:

          Hi Elizabeth. My comment isn’t about Calgarians who I have nothing but respect for, especially in this tragic situation. My apology if it was taken that way. My comment is related to my annoyance with how the bureaucratic side of disaster management is handled in this country. While we all salute the front line emergency workers / volunteers, there tends to be very little accountability at the bureaucratic / mid management level. The more questions you ask, the more apparent it is that these guys don’t know what they are doing. Calgarians and all Canadians deserve better.


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    robin says:

    Mayor Nenshi is saying to stay home, shelter friends if they need a place, be safe, don’t hoard, water supply is secure, emergency personnel and shelters have enough assistance and volunteers, if that changes, the City will make a call, otherwise call 311 if you have questions. Spread the word.

    Your thoughts, Warren, are appreciated. I was in Calgary in 2005 when it flooded and this is 2 to 3 times more water volume. A combination of rainfall and snow being washed in as well.


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    bluegreenblogger says:

    Extreme weather events are on the rise, for sure. A whole lot of Calgary has been paved over since you lived there, and paved spaces deliver water into the sewer systems a whole lot faster than would have been the case 20 years ago. That is just a general observation though, maybe this massive flooding would have happened anyway.


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      Sean says:

      I don’t agree that extreme weather events are on the rise. I think media reporting on extreme weather events is on the rise.


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        bluegreenblogger says:

        Uh, well you are wrong. I have been using climatic data from across Canada professionally for 25 years. Predicated on the DATA collected by Environment Canada, and other contributors to Provincial and Federal building code appendices, snow, rain, and wind loads have been consistently rising with every code revision. the reason is because extreme events are more frequent, and actual loading data is affected by volatility. For example, what was once a hundred year event, in say the 1975 National Building Code is now a 30 year event in many locations. Weather patterns apparently do not care much about your opinions, and do not ask for permission from the media to occur.


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          Sean says:

          Do you honestly believe that it is even possible for a government agency to tell you that extreme weather events are staying the same or even going down? Please. Disaster management is one of the biggest rackets going. It achieves nothing but building bureaucracy and employing consultants. There is never any data that shows any of the planning makes the slightest amount of difference. They will keep telling you disasters are getting worse just to keep the tax dollars flowing. The media will keep telling you its getting worse just to sell ads. Making bucks off of the misery of the victims. Really inspiring. Its almost as bad as the war on drugs, created to employ cops.


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            bluegreenblogger says:

            You do not have a clue what you are talking about. There are many hundreds of weather stations all across Canada. They continuously record rainfall, snowfall, wind speeds, and seismic activity. Many of these stations have been collecting data for close to a century. This data is collected, and is compiled into loading data that engineers can use to design structures capable of resisiting the actual conditions in all those little towns across Canada. The data is not massaged or manipulated, it is totally straightforward statistical analysis. What is presented is hourly precipitation, cumulative precipitation, wind loads (with velocities converted into kilopascals), The observed frequencies of specific wind velocities determine what is a 100 year, or a 30 year, or for temporary building purposes they even report a 10 year return. Building code review is continuous and ongoing. When the measured changes in loads become dangerously inconsistent with design loads stipulated by the code, then the code gets revised. The reason for this is because Engineers swear an Oath, they have a duty of care of the general public, and are charged with protecting lives. This is why only an Engineer, or an Architect can design and stamp (seal) the design calculations for a structure in Canada. Code revisions have been happening more and more frequently, but it pre-dates any media interest in changing climate. And if you seriously think that your opinions should trump building code revisions that are intended to keep Canadians alive…. I can tell you with certainty that there would be a lot of human corpses floating down the Bow river today if we did not have a seriously well conceived and managed building code to work with. But you are a freaking idiot who wants to believe in conspiracies, but canjnot bring yourself to ‘believe’ in collected and collated data. I hope this reply to you will help you to understand that your obstinate and unfounded opinions are literally DANGEROUS


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          Ottawa Civil Servant says:

          First, Prayers to folks in Calgary and area. My brother has the Bow River in his backyard and was packed and ready to flee with the kids. Thankfully, they were spared, sadly, not the rest of their town.
          Next: The only increase has been reportage. A volcano erupts in Chili killing hundreds: 10 seconds on the news; A snow storm in Europe provides comic car-crash videos and it is proof of global warming/climate change for weeks. Except the it isn’t.
          And what kind of simpleton thinks paved space in Calgary has anything to do with this? Cochrane and High River (upstream) are testament to how dumb this comment it. Remarkable.

          As for damaging weather, 24 hour news cycles, satellite broadcasting and hugely inflated home values leading to hugely inflated insurance losses (ie most damaging/expensive hurricane in history) have generated the perception that all of this is unprecedented.

          Just today I heard an announcer actually say the NBA final was the greatest B-ball game ever played. Hmm, context much?


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            bluegreenblogger says:

            Paved space is impermeable to water. Hurricane Hazel trashed so much of Toronto for that exact reason. Storm runoff was immediate and massive. And I fail to see what the media reaction to events in Chile or Europe has to do with the hourly measurements of wind speed, precipitation etc at hundreds of Canadian Weather stations. Here is an Environment Canada database, where you can see for yourself the data that is being collected and used to update the building code(s) in Canada.

            http://climate.weatheroffice.gc.ca/climateData/canada_e.html

            Do you actually believe that somebody is altering the data or something? Because the actual data is saying something quite different from what you are saying, so either you are incorrect, or the data is incorrect, and this kind of data is so simple, it is pretty hard to get it wrong.


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    Rene says:

    In a speech delivered Novemnber 16, 2011 to the Waterloo chapter, Insurance Institute of Ontario entitled ” Making flood insurable for Canadian homeowners”, Glenn McGillivray
    Managing Director, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction advised:

    “Canada is the only G8 country in which flood insurance is not available to homeowners. Even Russians, whose economy isn’t
    exactly known for being one of the most advanced in the world, can purchase a rider to cover their homes against overland flood. But Canadians cannot.
    To make matters worse, most homeowners in Canada are of the mistaken belief that they are, indeed, covered for overland flood. A professionally administered
    ICLR survey conducted in 2004 showed that more than 70% of respondents believed that their homeowners policy covered them for overland flooding. More
    than 60% believed that their policy covered them for coastal flooding. People with these mistaken impressions oftentimes learn the hard way that they
    are wrong.
    But who can blame them for thinking as they do?
    We confuse homeowners by covering some forms of water damage, but not others.
    We confuse homeowners by covering some forms of water damage, but not others.
    Homeowners insurance in Canada routinely covers sewer backup, but not overland flood.
    It covers burst pipes, failed hotwater heaters and the like, but not overland flood.
    It even covers burst municipal watermains, but not overland flood.”

    There is not much that can be done immediately outside of rescue and evacuation, but once the waters recede, cleanup and reconstruction will have tackled, and unfortunately for many, their losses will not be covered by insurance.

    So here is where you may become involved, to address the issue at the political level, to bring insurance coverage in Canada in line with that of other G8 countries to cover such catastrophic losses, which presumably insurance was intended to cover and should cover, rather than let homeowners fend for themselves….


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      bluegreenblogger says:

      Lol, I got flood insurance on my home Insurance policy. It did not add a whole lot to the cost, and I figure if the event could be beyond my capacity to pay for it, THAT is what I want Insurance for. I had the benefit though of previously having a sewer problem on a whole street. Some of the neighbours were insured, some were not. I asked the question next time I renewed the Insurance, and ensured I had the coverage. This is a case where a good Insurance broker will inform you of the risks, and let you make the informed decision.


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        Olmanhall says:

        So when did this change? I was told years ago that like Rene says: you can’t buy it. If you live in Calgary, or anywhere else, you can buy earthquake insurance though. I took a pass on that, sold my house in Bowness and moved to higher ground.


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    sj says:

    The Red Cross is collecting money for flood victims.

    Also the Calgary Zoo is incurring huge costs to relocate their animals, so donations there would be be much appreciated.

    https://www.canadahelps.org/DonationDetails.aspx?cookieCheck=true


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    Lee Weiler says:

    We feel the same way here in Edmonton … just watching in horror, completely unable to do anything to help – at least for now.


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    Kevin says:

    We’ve been messing with Mother Nature for far too long. Until our governments and industries wake up to that fact, pray is all we can do.

    If the Sally Ann or Red Cross jump in to help, a donation would be a good thing.


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      Elisabeth Lindsay says:

      Red Cross is there – so is the Army


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    Arnold Murphy says:

    Warren, In the U.S. the Army Corps of Engineers are the experts, they are used throughout the U.S. to do analysis work and to even design and carry out large projects. I say this to contrast how Canada’s Royal Corps of Engineers, are often brought in only when disasters occur, and usually end up being effective but are hindered by a lack of planning and control. For example and I hope I am not being predictive here the far end of Harrison Lake has a rock formation very similar to the one that created the Hope Slide, it is over a million cubic tons of rock ready to displace water in Harrison Lake. Harrison Lake sits on top of the Fraser, that is the egress of the lake flows into the Fraser and would end up in the lower mainland. When I was a member and stationed in Chilliwack the long time home of the Engineers we did surveys a few times, there were suggestions to incorporate large anchor pins and steel nets, reinforcements to stabilize this formation. The formation needs further care, regular analysis and monitoring to enable an evacuation of the lower mainland if there is an event occurring. While the govt. unwisely moved the Engineering Regiment and School from the Chilliwack Base and this resulted in a lack of resources for that area. As you will see in the coming days there will be troops throughout the disaster areas, doing their best, as they have done before in Winnipeg and elsewhere, through fire, flood, tornado, winter blizzard etc. I believe firmly that the involvement and usage of Engineers beforehand as in the U.S. would yield better results and provide for some solutions, such as building bridges above the flood peaks and designing adequate measurement procedures to determine potentials. Why does it have to always be like we are running a fire hall operation in Canada? Going from one crisis to another without consideration of the factors at play only places Canadians in further peril, we should have dispersed resources pre-involved.


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    Cameron Prymak says:

    Many of us have/will send money to the Canadian Red Cross.

    But a SFH event with proceeds going there wouldn’t hurt either.


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    Eric Weiss says:

    In Calgary now on business. Flooding is pretty intense downtown, but the majority of the city is pretty unscathed. Bad where the flooding is concentrated. Not quite a bad as the flood-mageddon footage on the news. Communities to the south have it much worse.

    Only 1500 of the 100k evacuated needed to use shelters everyone else got taken in by someone. A tribute to the generosity of Canadians. I have friends that I cab stay with, so I let some people who couldn’t find a hotel that would take their dogs use mine. The Stampede volunteers called out their people to man the emergency shelters and emergency animal shelters. The response has been amazing. Everyone’s helping out as best they can.


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      Elizabeth says:

      I wouldn’t say the majority of the city is unscathed at all. The city is scathed. It’s shut down. We’re amazingly lucky where we are, just south of the reservoir, dry and okay – but only 15 minutes away the Bow has burst its banks and covered a huge area at the Southland Deerfoot intersection. That’s just this end of Deerfoot, the other end is closed. Nobody can travel, the LRT is shut down, the stations were submerged,the tunnels *filled* with water, the tracks twisted and torn up. Elbow Drive was awash, and parts of it have caved in. The University, SAIT, and ACAD are all closed. The Palliser seems to be okay, 100 years old and standing, but we have not even tried driving anywhere south of Heritage Drive, or east of MacLeod Trail, in fact we’ve avoided MacLeod Trail.
      Safeway and Shoppers, that’s it. Today the sun came out, and we went to the reservoir for a look around and nearly got carried off by mosquitoes. I’ve never seen the reservoir that high, and it’s muddy. Nobody is sailing, but some fool was canoeing on the Bow. I would love to volunteer, but we’re told repeatedly to please stay home, and send money.

      Before it began, last Wednesday evening I went with my daughter to the vet’s office to get cat and dog food, then we drove down to 61st and MacLeod to the health food store. I waited in the car, she went inside while I checked twitter for the weather. I texted her to tell her there was a heavy rainfall warning “expected to hit the city within 30 minutes”, so hurry up and let’s get back home. (Years in Alberta have taught me to get the hell off the roads when bad weather threatens in summer.) We did, and within a short time, there was a terrific thunderstorm, came very close to having lightning come in through the kitchen window but fortunately only scared the crap out of me and I threw the stainless steel ladle that I’d been washing. Torrential rain that night, all the next day and following day and then Friday we woke up to the news about the H2S leak in Turner Valley where we have friends, then we realized there was also flooding to complicate it. That seemed to be the worst thing that would happen, the town had to be evacuated as H2S kills within seconds. Then it sunk in that Black Diamond was also at risk – and it wasn’t until after all that that that we realized the Bow and Elbow were flooding, badly. Later the news about High River came in, and it was hard to comprehend how bad that was. We have friends there with horses, no idea how they’re doing.

      Calgary has coped amazingly well, but High River is really a very sad mess. Three people so far have died, the military is there – but they’ve only been able to search a small percentage of the houses. It wasn’t a flood so much as it was a river that decided to grow about 400% and go in a different direction. If you want to send money, send it to High River. Redford has sworn that money will be found to help High River rebuild, but there’s so much damage. And Canmore – . The TransCanada is out before and after Banff. People have completely lost their houses – and cars.
      The Bow has carved out a new shoreline along Bridgeland, removed a huge chunk of land. I haven’t heard about livestock much, but one report that 60 cows were found drowned in a field. I’m sure there are more. Saw one video of a man on horseback crossing the river in High River to get his spooked and stranded horses off an island and over to the main shore. I think he succeeded. The rivers literally turned into oceans. National Post has a good video of a helicopter ride surveying Calgary’s flooded areas. My niece’s house in Elbow Park under water, my brother’s house near the University being pumped out, my sister had to leave her place on 14th and go to her daughter’s house – most people seemed to go to family or neighbours, Southland Leisure Center was closed to the public for evacuees, everything you need in there except home.

      I think sometimes that the rivers are changing course, (oxbows) and it’s time to move everything off the flood plain. You cannot live next to a river and not expect to be flooded out at some point. Or we need to call in the Dutch. This is climate change, or it could be a “century flood”, but I think geologists can tell whether this type of flooding has ever occurred before. Calgary is in a valley, really, and the rich people built on Mount Royal, they probably knew about floods.

      Thanks for the good wishes. There are many who are saying via social media that Calgary has brought this on themselves (kinda like the Tea Party blaming gay people for hurricanes) because of the oil sands – enough of them to make a Calgary reporter blow up about being “lectured on climate change”. This is undoubtedly connected to climate change, but that’s also connected to a lot of issues, like cutting down too many trees (suck up hundreds of gallons of water from rivers if they’re left there), and having too much ground covered in non-absorbent asphalt – that kind of stuff. I think we all need to really work on better environmental standards, but telling flood victims in Alberta that this is their own fault is really low. Hopefully it doesn’t last, or I’ll get that bumper sticker out again. Harper has not done Alberta any favours.


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        Eric Weiss says:

        I wasn’t trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation, merely saying that it wasn’t as if the entire city was underwater as some of the media reports I’ve seen portrayed. 100,000 people evacuated in a city of 1 million shows that he majority of the city is OK. Services, stores, bars and restaurants are open. there’s no hoarding or panic. I was driving friends an colleagues all over the city to alternate accommodations and most areas you wouldn’t have known anything was going on at all.

        Calgarians are resiliant, the support around the country has been amazing. They’ll bounce back. No doubt the cost of getting the downtown core back to normal will be astronomical, and the financial costs from lost production will be even greater.


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    Eric Weiss says:

    https://secure.redcross.ca/registrant/donate.aspx?eventid=126477&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=Alberta+floods


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    Rene says:

    Take your pick whom to believe ….

    CBC news, in an article January 8, 2009 entitled “Flood damage not covered, warns Insurance Bureau of Canada”, advised :
    “Flood victims are out of luck if they are looking to their insurance companies for compensation, because home flood insurance doesn’t exist in this country, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
    The warning to B.C. property owners comes as dozens of Fraser Valley residents begin to assess the damage done by two days of heavy rain falling on top of melting snow, leaving many homes and properties flooded.”

    An article in the December 2010 publication Canadian Underwriter states:

    “Insurance companies have provided coverage against fire and other perils in Canada for more than 200 years, yet consistently they have chosen not to provide flood insurance to homeowners. Businesses in Canada buy flood coverage. Homeowners have the option of buying flood insurance in the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France. What is needed to make flood insurable for Canadian homeowners?
    Flooding accounts for almost half of the disasters in Canada. Insurance is available for other perils in Canada — earthquake, tornado, hurricane, wildfire, winter storms, lightning and hail — but not overland flood. Relief programs offered by government agencies and charitable groups reduce the hardship for flood victims, but funding to support immediate, basic needs is not insurance.”

    An article in the June 2011 publication Canadian Underwriter dealing with Manitoba floods states :
    “Despite this alarming level of water, insurance claims in the area remain (as of press time) nearly non-existent. The inability to purchase overland flood insurance for residential properties plays some part in the infrequency of claims.”

    Trans Canada Insurance Marketing website advises:
    “Flood Insurance is available on commercial risks, depending on the location of the property, but is usually not available on homeowners risks”

    Auto insurance policies are standard policy wording per province and provincially legislated and regulated, whereas there is no provincial regulation pertaining to “standard coverage’ in homeowner policies, and Canadian insurers thereby collude to exclude such catastrophic risks, leaving the homeowner, and/or government to bear such burden and catastrophic losses …..


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      bluegreenblogger says:

      Interesting. Maybe I got the coverage because I have a seperate policy for my home based business… Maybe I should dust off my policy, or better still, call my broker to confirm.


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    Brammer says:

    Just flew out of YYC this morning. The Bow river is positively raging with huge swells and must be moving at 50 km/hr. Damn scary looking. A bew bridge under construction has been severely damaged and nearby ATCO trailers were picked up and tossed into the forest like milk cartons. Underpasses are flooded and there are police and fire all over the place blocking access to bridges.

    I Just heard from a colleague that they are turning power off to parts of downtown. Probably as a proactive move in case the water starts to back up into the drainage systems.

    She’s a real mess for sure. Glad no one has got hurt so far.


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    Nasty Bob says:

    Looks like your P&M’s old hood is okay as is your childhood ( teen-hood?) hood . Here’s a map of the evacuation zones for any who have friends or family here and are wondering – http://www.cbc.ca/news/interactives/map-calgary-floods/

    I have many friends who will have some very muddy stinky basements to deal with in a day or two. I’m in no danger now except I went shopping for emergency food supplies yesterday and this morning realized just about everything I bought requires a micro-wave. DOH ! if the power goes off I might be screwed. Let that be a lesson kids – Don’t drink and shop !!


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    Brad says:

    I got back two weeks ago from working in Calgary for 3 months. At the top of the hill, just east of Centre Street is a brand new disaster management centre. It looks quite elaborate. So I imagine they have lots of plans to go with it. The building is well above river.


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    Greg from Calgary says:

    So far we are coping here. Evacuations were orderly and all have found shelter. The real work begins once the Bow and Elbow go back to normal levels. That is when those who have seen their homes destroyed will need the most help.


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    Eric Weiss says:

    A little levity last yesterday. I was sitting in a bar having a bite to eat, talking to the bar tender. The news ticker says the Saddledome was flooded up to the 10th row. Bartender goes, “It’s going to be hard to bail all that water out with only one cup.” Great to see Calgarians keeping a sense of humour and stiff upper lip. They’ll come out of this just fine.


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    Elisabeth Lindsay says:

    What a difference a day makes! Thursday afternoon my daughter, dog and cat were evacuated from her home in Bragg Creek by the wonderful volunteer firefighters of Redwood Meadows – on a front loader! Took them up to high ground where she was met by her brother whose home is on high ground in S.W. Calgary overlooking Fish Creek Park.

    When she left, the water was six feet deep in the basement. Within a couple of hours, the whole house was surrounded.

    Today, they were able to get in and were VERY happy to see that the water hadn`t risen any further, and in fact had gone down a couple of feet. Main house was high and dry. The hamlet shopping village that was totally devastated is being cleaned up and some shops are even open!

    My Grand-daughter`s house in Hillhurst/Kensington district stayed high and dry as well. So thankful.

    Stampede Grounds which were swamped yesterday had some white hatters of the Stampede Board beginning clean up today. THese guys are the real Governors of Calgary – perhaps all of the province. THey only let the government think they do. 🙂

    What do you want to bet that they get some kind of Stampede going in two weeks? I wouldn`t bet against these guys.


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    Conor Mullally says:

    Kickass book. http://www.routledge.com/articles/featured_book_rebuilding_after_disasters/

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