Burst water pipe swamps west-end Islamic centre

A burst water pipe flooded the Muslim Association of Canada Islamic Centre in west Edmonton with mud and water Monday morning.

"It's a heartbreaking incident," said centre manager Bassam Fares.

"This place is a second home for a lot of people. That's where they come and spend their time, bring their kids, bring their families."

Just after 5 a.m., an underground water pipe burst in the utility room at the centre at 6104 172nd St., pushing mud and water, up to one metre in depth, onto the main floor, centre officials said in a news release Tuesday.

The main floor is home to two prayer halls, an atrium, a multi-purpose area, preschool, washrooms and office areas. It also houses two daycare centres, a dental office, a restaurant, an eye doctor, grocery store and pharmacy.

"I see people getting very emotional," Fares said. "They're crying. It's a big incident and it's affecting our day-to-day functions."

The flood happened minutes before dawn prayers were to start, he said.

"The best part is it was in the back area of the building and the main prayer hall is in the front, and everyone was able to hear the big noise after the pipe burst and were able to get out of the building safely."

Disaster and emergency cleanup crews completed an initial cleanup Monday assisted by 60 volunteers, including a dozen Syrian refugees and newcomers.

The centre is working on resuming programming and services as soon as it can though not at full capacity.

The main challenge will be to find a prayer space for Friday's service, the largest in the week, with upwards of 2,000 people attending, Fares said.

"We are trying to rent a place around the mosque. We are talking to community halls and the Mayfield [Inn]."

The centre has no estimate of the cost of the damage yet, Fares said.

The centre opened in 2010.