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Flooding in Canada city less than feared

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A flooded downtown Calgary, Alberta is seen from a aerial view of the city Saturday, June 22, 2013. The two rivers that converge on the western Canadian city of Calgary are receding Saturday after floods devastated much of southern Alberta province, causing at least three deaths and forcing thousands to evacuate. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

MEDICINE HAT, Alberta (AP) -- Officials in the eastern Alberta city of Medicine Hat said Monday they believe water levels on the South Saskatchewan River have peaked and that flooding won't be as severe as initially feared.

Roughly 10,000 people were evacuated as the city of 60,000 prepared for the surge of water that swamped Calgary and surrounding areas last week. Three bodies have been recovered since the flooding began last Thursday in southern Alberta.

The water has managed to top sandbag barriers in some areas of the Medicine Hat, flooding some neighborhoods, but some of the defenses remain dry Monday.

"We believe the crest has occurred and we have seen the worst of the flooding," the city said in a release to the media.

Ron Robinson, director of emergency measures in Medicine Hat, got an aerial view of the flooding Sunday. Many areas were inundated with water, he said.

"You'd almost think we're in the muddy waters of the Mississippi right now that surrounds a lot of these homes," Robinson said. "It's actually quite tragic in some areas."

In Calgary, the mayor announced Sunday that 65,000 residents who had been ordered to evacuate were being allowed to return to assess the damage. Residents have been warned there is still a long way to go before the city and its downtown would be back to normal, although crews were working hard to clean up and restore utilities.

People in High River, the community hardest hit by the flooding, didn't have much reason for optimism. Mayor Emile Blokland said there was still no timeline for when 13,000 evacuees would be able to return.

He said he understood their frustration, but explained that the town's infrastructure had suffered a "critical blow" and every house needed to be inspected.