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Flood evacuations top 1,000

High water in Souris, MB
High water in Souris, MB

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

April 22, 2011 — The number of people forced to leave their homes due to spring flooding in the Prairies has topped 1,000, with officials saying the worst is yet to come.

Flooding in Peguis, one of five Manitoba First Nations affected by flooding so far
Flooding in Peguis, one of five Manitoba First Nations affected by flooding so far

Hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate in Manitoba alone as the Red, Assiniboine and Souris rivers continue to spread overland.

Some observers say First Nations communities are disproportionately bearing the brunt of the flooding, with five communities already affected by flooding and 50 more in jeopardy.

The Souris River crested on Thursday, threatening the small southwestern town of Melita. Authorities expect water levels on the Souris to remain high but stable for the next few days.

”We are continuing to deal with very a widespread impact of flooding this year,” says Steve Ashton, Manitoba's Emergency Measures Minister.

Meanwhile, the Red and Assiniboine rivers are expected to crest simultaneously in Winnipeg sometime between May 2nd and May 5th. The upper range of the expected peak for the Red is 22.2 feet, which is just slightly less than the 2009 crest and takes into account the possibility of wet weather between now and the end of the month, said Steve Topping with Manitoba Water Stewardship.

Ashton says the flooding has affected an “unprecedented“ area.

“It really is impacting many areas of the province where we perhaps traditionally see flooding, but also some areas where we're seeing some unprecedented developments,” Ashton told a press conference on Thursday.

“What is noticeable ... is we are seeing more evacuations.”

100 more people left their homes in the 24 hours before the long weekend began, some of them seniors from a care facility facing the loss of its access road.

So far, 905 people have been evacuated from their homes in Manitoba.

“Many of these were precautionary evacuations,” adds Ashton.

Another development officials are closely watching is the movement of the Morris River.

“There has been significant wind on Morris River that resulted in a ramp closure on Highway 75,” says Ashton. “Wind will be a weather element that we'll have to watch for and contend with.”

Flooding in Lumsden, SK
Flooding in Lumsden, SK

Saskatchewan floods continue

In Saskatchewan, the Town of Lebret has become the latest community to declare a state of emergency due to flooding, joining at least 14 others.

Lebret's mayor Carl Olson said about 40 properties have been threatened by flooding, which prompted the town to issue a voluntary evacuation notice last week. No one has left yet, but some people have moved furniture and other belongings to higher ground.

Residents of two Saskatchewan First Nations were allowed to return home Friday; however, the flood threat in the southwest and northeast will continue through the weekend as the Battle River crests.

With files from Sana Ahmed and the Canadian Press

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