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At least two dead after floods hit vast area of western Canada

Officials in Calgary say that up to 100,000 thousand people could have to leave their homes because of severe flooding in western Canada. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

Heavy floods hit across an area of western Canada about the size of New York state on Friday, leaving at least two people dead and forcing 100,000 to evacuate.

As many as four people may have died after being swept away in Alberta, according to the Royal Canadian Mountain Police.

The RCMP said the bodies of two men were recovered from the Highwood River near the flood-swept community of High River, CBC reported. Sgt. Patricia Neely said a third body had been spotted but could not be recovered, the report said.

A woman pulled by currents in her camper has not been located, STARS air ambulance spokesman Cam Heke told The Associated Press. It was not clear whether a man seen tumbling out of a canoe in the High River area survived, according to police. It was unclear whether either of them was the third body that had been spotted.

The Bow River, which runs through Calgary, a city of more than 1 million people, crested at more than five times its normal flow for this time of year, Reuters reported. 

"Last night I saw the river run faster and higher than I have ever seen in my life," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told a news conference.

Calgary officials said the Calgary Stampede rodeo site downtown was flooded, and water in the nearby Saddledome hockey arena was reported up to the fourteenth row, Reuters reported.

Thousands of police, military personnel, government workers and ordinary citizens were involved in rescue operations in a vast area of the foothills of the Rockies.

Mike Sturk / Reuters

As many as 100,000 people could be forced from their homes by heavy flooding which washed out roads, bridges and closed the Trans-Canada Highway.

In addition to Calgary, the communities of Canmore, Bragg Creek and High River also were badly affected.

Calgary city officials declared a state of local emergency and more than 75,000 Calgarians - about 7 percent of city's residents - were ordered to evacuate and take shelter with friends and relatives or in leisure centers, Reuters and other media reported. 

Thousands of others in outlying areas were also told to get out, with officials telling The Associated Press that as many as 100,000 people could be forced from their homes.

Nenshi said at a press conference at 5 a.m. local time (7 a.m. ET) Friday that no one in the city should travel unless it was “absolutely necessary” with the Bow and Elbow rivers both causing floods.

“The Bow is certainly moving higher and faster than I have ever seen in my lifetime,” Nenshi explained, adding that the Elbow appeared to have reached its peak but could stay there for some time.

“I saw water levels that were incredibly high. I saw areas of the city that were deeply under water, things I’ve never seen before.”

Chief Superintendent Kevin Harrison, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said the area affected by flooding was immense.

Craig Douce / The Canadian Press via AP

Water approaches homes near Cougar Creek in Canmore, Alberta, on Thursday.

“This is widespread … just guessing, the area that is flooded would be bigger than England,” he said. England is about the same size as New York state.

“The magnitude of it is certainly overwhelming.”

He said large parts of Calgary and most of southern Alberta’s 420,000 residents were likely affected by the floods in some way.

About 150 people were rescued by helicopters in High River alone as they stood on rooftops, clung to trees or from inside vehicles, Harrison said.

Environment Canada issued rainfall alerts early Friday for parts of the state.

“Some areas have already received over 100 millimetres [4 inches] of rain since Wednesday night,” it said. “The heaviest rain is expected in regions north and west of Calgary today where an additional 10 to 25 millimetres are forecast to fall. The rain should continue to taper off tonight and into Saturday.”

Some rivers were not expected to crest until Saturday.

Wade Graham, a resident of Canmore, told the AP on Wednesday that he woke early to a rumbling sound coming from a nearby creek.

“At first it was just intense, pretty powerful, amazing thing to watch. As daylight came, it just got bigger and bigger and wider and wider, and it's still getting bigger and bigger and wider and wider,” he said.

He added: “I watched a refrigerator go by, I watched a shed go by, I watched couches go by. It's insane.” 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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