EDMONTON -- Water levels receded significantly from the Lower Townsite in Fort McMurray on Saturday as many residents and business owners returned to their properties after the flooding.

Electricity and natural gas has still not been restored to the area, so returning residents were without power or heat.

Moe Aoude is one of the residents that returned to the downtown area on Friday night when the order was lifted. Without electricity, he wasn’t able to see how much damage had been done until Saturday morning. What he found was heartbreaking.

“I found a disaster in my house,” he told CTV News Edmonton. “Everything was upside-down. All the couches, furniture, my kitchen counters popped off the wall, and they’re sitting in the middle of the kitchen, my fridge. Everything’s upside-down. Living room tables are in the bedrooms.”

He says the water rose to less than a foot below the ceiling. Nothing in the basement or main floor of his home can be salvaged.

“Nothing is going to dry. Everyone is pulling all their furniture out and after that they’re tearing down all the drywall, all the wood, all the insulation, it’s too late. You can’t save anything at this point,” he said.

“If it stays two more days it’s going to grow mold, and the mold’s going to go upstairs and then the whole house might be a total loss.”

Aoude was told not to touch anything until the insurance adjustor arrived, so he spent the day helping his neighbour take everything out of his house.

“Restoration companies are only going to houses that have been approved by insurance, and that’s it. Everybody else is just neighbours to neighbours, helping each other, and that’s it.”

Aoude says residents need help and they need it fast.

“Immediate assistance is required. There isn’t much manpower, this isn’t something we should be doing. You got insurance for a reason, they should be restoring all that and taking it out. What if it’s full of asbestos or mold? We’re risking ourselves to save our houses at this point.”

“We’re helping each other, but there’s 1,200 houses, we can’t do them all.”

A boil water advisory is still in place for Fort McMurray, Anzac, Draper, Fort McMurray First Nation 468, Gregoire Lake Estates and Saprae Creek Estates. 

The government has provided residents a checklist for returning home safely.

Starting at noon on Monday, residents impacted by flooding will be able apply to the government for emergency payments of $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent child. Applications must be submitted online. This payment is separate from assistance provided by the Red Cross.

Businesses impacted by the flooding can contact Wood Buffalo Economic Development if they have questions or need support.

Mail to the area has been suspended, and Canada Post says it has been secured.

Canadians wishing to donate to relief efforts can do so through the Red Cross.

The evacuation order for Draper will be lifted Saturday night at 9 p.m., with the exception of Garden Lane.