An Amphibex icebreaker, like the machines pictured here, is working to clear an ice jam in northern Manitoba. ((Government of Manitoba))

An icebreaking machine has begun punching holes in an ice jam that threatens dozens of homes and a bridge near a northern Manitoba aboriginal community.

The machine, called an Amphibex, is like a backhoe on a barge. It arrived to work on the Shoal River near the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation Saturday afternoon.

Water and ice were only 15 centimetres below the only bridge that connects the community with nearby Pelican Rapids on Friday.

Paul Guyader, from Manitoba's Emergency Measures Organization, said Saturday the Amphibex is picking away at the jam at the point where the Shoal River drains into Lake Winnipegosis.

That's tricky, he said, because if the jam suddenly lets go, the Amphibex and its operator could get swept into the lake.

About five homes have been flooded, and a number of band members with health conditions have been moved to Pelican Rapids.

Sapotaweyak Cree Nation is located about 600 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

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