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Nearly 600 people evacuated from the Lake St Martin First Nation because of severe flooding may not be able to move back to their home until the end of the year — if then.

Only 30 people remain at the reserve, about 300 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and they spend their days filling sandbags in hopes of saving their homes.

"It's very sad and all you can do if just go at it every day," said Ruby Houle, who is cooking for some of the sandbaggers.

Provincial officials have said the lake level is not projected to crest until July and then recede slowly, leaving the evacuees, who are currently living in hotels in Winnipeg, unable to return to their homes for many months.

Jenny Pelletier, who's sharing two rooms with eight other people, says it's been difficult, especially with her son in hospital with a respiratory illness that she blamed on mould from recurring floods.

"I wouldn't want any mother to see or feel what I seen or felt with my boy in there — like seeing him there in the hospital bed," Pelletier told CBC News.

The First Nation is negotiating a short-term solution with the province that could see evacuees move into trailer homes near the community of Hilbre, about 228 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. However, the soonest the new site might be ready for occupancy is September.

And that solution could be made permanent, with the construction of houses, a school and infrastructure.

Chief Adrian Sinclair wants the issue put it to a vote.

With files from Wab Kinew