Calgary flood evacuation grows, zoo's lions and tigers could be next

A massive evacuation continues to play out in Calgary, where flood waters have forced about 100,000 people from their homes and left the city's core a virtual wasteland.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has asked residents to avoid all unnecessary travel, but there is one trip city officials may need to make.

As part of the intense evacuation, some of the Calgary Zoo's largest animals could be moved to a new home - in jail cells at the courthouse.

The Calgary Herald reports that emergency management and zoo officials considered moving the city's four lions, six tigers and two snow leopards to the courthouse. By afternoon, the big cats were still contained at the zoo.

A Facebook post did say, however, that several animals were relocated from the zoo for safety reasons. Two zebras were taken to the Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre. Two pot-bellied pigs were reportedly taken to an animal shelter and gorillas were being kept to the highest areas of their enclosure.

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The zoo itself announced it would remain closed through Friday amid increasing flood risk. It said animal care workers were focused on the safety of the animals.

"As the Bow River continues to rise zoo staff are taking measures to secure and move animals to safe locations," the statement read.

The city itself has declared a state of emergency and police were patrolling areas that have been evacuated to watch for looters.

The city says that power has been shut off to evacuated communities but, due to the way the power grid is set up, that means some areas bordering the evacuation zone have lost power as well.

A full list of updates and closures is available here.

Transit service has been suspended and schools have been closed. Nenshi urged residents to avoid non-essential travel at all costs.

Meantime, other areas of southern Alberta were suffering the full brunt of flood waters. In nearby Canmore, Alta., rushing water cut a fierce river through residential backyards.

Kevan Yaets of High River, Alta., was forced to climb out of his submerged pickup truck with his cat Momo and swim to the shore. Yaets and Momo both managed to reach safety.

In Bragg Creek, a small hamlet just west of Calgary, the flooding reached such a dire level that an entire home was swept away in the current.

"I offer my sincerest condolences to those who lost their homes. It is incredibly sad," wrote ZabaOfficial, who posted a video of the incident on YouTube.

Calgary officials are warning that the worst is still to come.

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