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Canadian military rushes to Manitoba flood zone

The Cree called it Miscousipi, Red Water River, and warned early settlers of its hidden capacity for destruction. The river flooded in 1826, forcing the complete evacuation of the 10-year-old Red River colony. But most settlers refused to give up. Winnipeg, the city they built on the Red River's banks, has braved disaster again and again – in 1950, 1966, 1979, and again, dramatically, in 1997.

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At the height of the battle, over 8000 soldiers - one-tenth of the Canadian military - are on duty in the Manitoba flood zone. They come from all over - Canadian Forces Bases Petawawa, Kingston, Gagetown and Edmonton - to help in all sorts of ways. Engineers help the highways department. Other personnel build and patrol dikes and evacuate communities, police empty towns and provide medical assistance and, once it's all over, help thousands of people return home. CBC TV's Robert Enright was there to watch Canadian heroes at work.

The flood is a public relations bonanza - not to mention a morale booster - for the Canadian military. Brigadier General Rick Hiller: "I think the Canadian public, right here in the city of Winnipeg, is starting to recognize that [the military] is a slice of Canadian society. We're your sons and daughters, moms and dads and brothers and sisters out there working. And not the fiendish people that sometimes people portray us."
• The 1997 Red River flood involved the biggest deployment of Canadian Armed Forces since Korea.
• The Air Force logged 1500 hours of flying during the Manitoba flood. Thirty-two military aircraft, mostly helicopters, were on duty.
• The military force in Manitoba included a naval component. Amphibious vehicles, such as the Cougar, were used to travel over flooded roads.

• The military was headquartered in classrooms at Winnipeg's Kapyong Barracks but moved to the Canadian Forces Air Navigation school as the battle intensified.
• At the military's flood headquarters, several generals kept in constant contact with Manitoba's Emergency Management Organization. Together, they decided where to deploy troops.
• Another critical activity at military headquarters was tracking the advance of the water using large, specialized maps.

• By April 29, there were 600 soldiers and officers just in Winnipeg, patrolling and shoring up dikes. Another 2400 personnel were expected by May 2.
• On May 13, a military convoy of about 135 vehicles departed Manitoba's capital. Winnipeggers lined the streets to wave goodbye.
• After leaving Winnipeg, 1200 members of the Lord Strathcona's Horse Regiment returned to Alberta to train for a tour of duty in Bosnia.
Medium: Television
Program: 24 Hours
Broadcast Date: May 4, 1997
Guest(s): Tom Bradley
Host: Diana Swain
Reporter: Robert Enright
Duration: 6:44

Last updated: June 27, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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