Some of the energy companies headquartered in downtown Calgary could see productivity losses after being forced out of their offices by severe flooding, but the good news is that oil and gas production are largely unaffected, analysts said Friday.“These downtown offices are centrepoints for planning,” said Brian Pow, vice-president of research at Acumen Capital Partners Ltd.“When you don’t have minds congregated, because they’re not all in the office, that’s where you’re losing productivity.”And, although it’s a “major inconvenience,” the evacuations are unlikely to have a huge impact on oil and gas producers’ bottom lines, added Todd Hirsch, an analyst at ATB Financial.“Corporate Calgary is very good at working remotely,” said Hirsch.“That’s why we all have these smartphones and email and remote servers, so that when these disruptions happen, at least the bare bones of business can still happen.”The Calgary headquarters of several energy companies — including Encana Corp., Suncor Energy, Enbridge Inc. and Imperial Oil — were closed Monday.Employees were still able to work remotely, although many companies said they were focusing only on the most essential business activities.Encana Corp. asked employees to work from home Tuesday and said it will do the same Wednesday as the office will remain closed.“We are encouraging people, if they are capable, to work from home, but in our instructions to employees number one is, ensure the safety and security of your family and your property and yourself,” said spokesman Jay Averill.Encana said only two of its gas well sites, located southeast of Calgary, have been impacted by flooding.“Outside of Calgary we’ve had almost zero impact,” said Averill.Talisman Energy said a small number of employees who are engaged in “critical” business activities, such as those supporting exploration and production, were given access to the company’s offices, as some parts of the city have been reopened.The head office of Enbridge Inc. in Calgary was also closed Monday as the company grappled with a spill from its Line 37 pipeline in northern Alberta, possibly as a result of shifting ground due to unusually heavy rains.Suncor Energy said late Monday that it has temporarily reduced production from its Fort McMurray oil sand operations as a result of the precautionary shutdown of the Enbridge pipeline system within the Fort McMurray region.“We’re using our existing storage capacity, as well as moving volume on our oil sands pipeline, to mitigate the impact while we work with Enbridge to facilitate safely bringing the pipelines back into operation,” said president and CEO Steve Williams.“At this time, Suncor does not anticipate an impact on its ability to meet annual production guidance,” the company added.Hirsch, meanwhile, said the impacts of the flooding will be felt most in the tourism industry and in small businesses, said Hirsch.“Mother nature is undiscerning about these things, but this came at a really, really bad time because in the next 10 days Alberta is heading into its largest tourist draw of the year, and that is the Calgary Stampede,” he said.Although the event will still take place, Hirsch said the number of tourists flocking to the area and the amount of money they spend will be lower than in other years.Meanwhile, sectors involved in rebuilding the city, such as construction and renovation companies, are likely to see a boost, said Pow.“There are whole neighbourhoods that have to be rebuilt,” he said. “House builders and renovation experts are going to have a heyday for the next number of years.”But, Pow added, paying for all those renovations will mean dipping into savings or taking on loans.Although most analysts and insurance companies said it was too soon to estimate the cost of repairing the damages, a preliminary report from BMO analyst Tom MacKinnon said it could be in the realm of $3 billion to $5 billion.MacKinnon said he arrived at that figure by multiplying $500-million by 10, after reading Hirsch’s comments that the price tag could be 10 times higher than that of the flood that occurred in the area in 2005.Hirsch cautioned that his estimate was not a scientific one.“I wouldn’t be surprised if in fact that is the number at the end of the day, but I’m basing that on nothing else than just the scale of magnitude of how much larger this flood is than 2005,” said Hirsch.“There’s no possible way anyone can really quantify with much sense of logic at this point — it’s still way too early.”
“With several tens of thousands of people having crossed since last week, this new exodus from Syria is among the largest we have so far seen during the conflict, which is now into its third year,” spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Dan McNorton told reporters in Geneva.“As of this morning, a further 2,000-3,000 people were reported waiting close to the Syrian side of the border, and expected to cross today.”Nearly 2 million Syrians have fled their war-torn country and registered as refugees or applied for registration, with two-thirds of these having arrived this year. According to the United Nations, there are now more than 684,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 516,000 in Jordan, 434,000 in Turkey, 155,000 in Iraq, and 107,000 in Egypt.The new influx began last Thursday when Kurdistan authorities suddenly opened access to the temporary Peshkhabour pontoon bridge north of Sahela, allowing several hundred people camped in the area since earlier last week to enter Iraq. By the following morning, thousands had swarmed across the swaying bridge over the Tigris.On Monday, more than 4,800 people entered through this access point. Many came from Malikiyye city in the Syrian governorate of Al-Hasakah and told UNHCR they had fled an aerial bombardment that morning. Those who arrived in the next few days were from further west, including Efrin, Aleppo, Al Hasakah and Al Qamishly.“As well as people who told us they were fleeing recent bombings, others say they were escaping fighting and tension amongst various factions on the ground,” Mr. McNorton said. “Also cited was the collapse of the economy due to war and the resulting difficulties in caring for their families.”The vast majority of those crossing are children, women and elderly persons with many having camped in tents by the river for the past few days waiting for the crossing point to open.In response, UNHCR and partners have erected shelters to provide shade, and water and food distributions have been set up at crossing points. In Erbil Governorate, farther east, UNHCR has established a transit site at Kawergost with over 1,000 tents. The transit site is now sheltering some 9,000 Syrians. UNHCR has also dispatched more than 90 trucks with aid from Erbil. Relief items distributed include tents, plastic tarpaulins, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets, hygienic supplies, water tanks, portable latrines, portable showers and electric fans. However, the agency noted that because of the scale and speed of the influx, some people still lack tents and have to camp under tarpaulins or other makeshift shelters. Another temporary site is being set up to house future arrivals.To boost rapidly depleting aid supplies in Iraq, UNHCR sent 15 tractor-trailer trucks to northern Iraq from its stockpile in Amman, Jordan. That shipment, expected to arrive this week, includes more than 3,100 tents, two pre-fabricated warehouses and jerry cans. Additional supplies are currently being organized, the agency said.In the longer-term, UNHCR said it is building a camp in cooperation with its partners and the Kurdish regional government, which is expected to be ready to accommodate refugees within weeks.The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has meanwhile been working with UNHCR and has also been distributing life-saving supplies, including more than 125,000 litres of bottled water at Peshkhabour since Thursday, and 4 tankers of safe water to cover additional needs.“Our staff at the Peshkhabour crossing point in northern Iraq say that many of the new arrivals are exhausted and in urgent need of water and shelter as summer temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius” said UNICEF’s Representative to Iraq, Marzio Babille. “Along with our partners, we are doing everything possible to ensure all needs of these new arrivals are immediately met.”UNICEF and the local department of social affairs are also supporting UNHCR at the crossing point to ensure unaccompanied and separated children are identified, registered and provided with all necessary support.UNICEF has also procured 60,000 litres of bottled water and 20,000 biscuits for children under five to be distributed among the 3,000 refugees sheltered at the Kawargosh transit site.UNHCR has urged countries in the region and elsewhere to keep borders open and to receive all Syrians who seek protection amid the fighting that has so far claimed over 100,000 lives since it began in March 2011.