Prime Minster Stephen Harper talks with local officials while surveying Red River Valley flooding in Manitoba. ((Fred Greenslade/Reuters))

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a helicopter tour Tuesday to get a close-up look at flooding along the Red River Valley south of Winnipeg.

"The federal government stands ready to assist in any way that is needed … as the situation unfolds," Harper said after his flight over the town of Morris.

"The flood tour was quite something to behold. The premier briefed me on the homes that have been damaged and also overland flooding, mainly in the western part of the province," he said.


An aerial view of a house surrounded by flood waters near Morris south of Winnipeg. ((Fred Greenslade/Reuters))

Harper toured this same area with Premier Gary Doer during the flood of 2006. He thinks flood prevention measures since then have lessened the impact this year.

"It's much cheaper for the federal government to contribute to some of these mitigation measures … than to contribute to all the various disaster relief actions every single year," he said.

Earlier in the day, Harper walked the massive earth dike protecting Morris and stood next to Highway 75 that runs from the U.S. border to Winnipeg, but which is now closed in places because it's under two metres of water.

No figure was mentioned for the amount Manitoba can expect from the federal government to help cover flood damage because it depends on how many claims are submitted and approved.

The federal funding is sent to the province, which then distributes it to those homeowners who qualify. The provincial government has already said that every homeowner affected by the flooding will be eligible for a maximum of $100,000 in disaster assistance.

'The federal government stands ready to assist in any way that is needed … as the situation unfolds.' —Prime Minister Stephen Harper

People are slowly being allowed back into flood-ravaged areas north of Winnipeg, where as many as 200 homes were damaged by a massive ice jam on the weekend. And the flood crest from North Dakota hasn't even reached the city yet.

It is in the Emerson area and expected to reach Winnipeg sometime around the end of the week.

Before Harper's tour, Doer said it was important for the prime minister to see the damage for himself, rather than reading or hearing about it.

"You can describe it. But until you see it, feel it, touch it, it's still missing a lot of the scope of what we're dealing with — the height of some of that ice, the backup of some of these rivers, the overland flooding due to ice in some of these culverts, [and] the water coming naturally from south of us," Doer said.