Hundreds of Manitobans have been forced out of their homes since flooding battered parts of the province and neighbouring Saskatchewan over the weekend.
As of Wednesday, about 500 people in Manitoba have left their homes because of the flooding, and 41 municipalities have declared a state of local emergency due to flooding following a weekend of torrential rains.
They include the city of Brandon; the towns of Birtle, Deloraine, Hartney, Melita, Oak Lake, Roblin and Virden; the villages of Elkhorn and Winnipegosis; the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation; and 30 rural municipalities.
A Manitoba Conservation helicopter is on standby in Brandon in case of medical emergencies or rescue missions, and the provincial fire commissioner's office has sent a water rescue team to the city, the province said Wednesday afternoon.
Most of the evacuations to date have been in the province's southwest corner, including in the town of Virden, where a surge of water from Saskatchewan has already flooded homes.
"It was sickening. I couldn't believe it. I wanted to cry," said Samantha Heaman, whose apartment in Virden was ankle deep in water over the weekend.
In Saskatchewan, where 54 communities have states of local emergency in effect, Premier Brad Wall surveyed the flood damage in the province's southeast on Wednesday.
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Wall visited the city of Melville, where a hospital and a care home had to be evacuated on Tuesday because of rising flood waters. A massive sandbagging operation has been in progress.
The premier said he is working to have a disaster assistance office set up in Melville by Friday.
"I have a hard time describing what I saw from the air just in terms of water that is literally everywhere," he said.
Roads cut to ease water pressure
In the Rural Municipality of Wallace, which includes Virden, crews have cut through two roads to ease the pressure as more water flows in from the west.
The cuts were made overnight in an attempt to prevent a larger collapse of the raised roadways, which also serve as dikes.
Wallace Reeve Don Neufeld said it's better to have the water released a little at a time, rather than have a rush of water if the roads were to let go.
A couple of other roads are still holding and being relied on to serve as dams, he added.
"We're trying not to breach them," Neufeld said.
"That would be disastrous if those couple of roads let go. Then we're in a whole world of hurt."
The RM of Wallace includes the communities of Virden, Hargrave, Harmsworth, Kirkella, Kola, Maples and Two Creeks.
Neufeld said he would meet with officials from the province and Town of Virden later Wednesday to decide if some people can return to their homes.
'That would be disastrous if those couple of roads let go. Then we're in a whole world of hurt.' —Reeve Don Neufeld, RM of Wallace
Dave Jordan noticed the water coming up fast at about noon Tuesday. He called in some help to build a dike to protect his house, but by supper time, he was ordered to get out.
“There's a lot of water that could come here. It's the old adage, 'Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,'” he said.
The RM of Wallace has also issued a warning to people to stay out of the areas where emergency operations are happening. Many people have been standing and watching the crews, but it is not safe, the warning says.
Anyone found in those areas will face charges.
Brandon expects deluge from west
Brandon, which is Manitoba's second-largest city, is also expecting a deluge of water from Saskatchewan over the next few days.
City officials said Wednesday they are preparing for the Assiniboine River level to rise quickly by as much as two metres by the time it crests July 11.
But they are confident their flood defence will be able to handle it.
"Our dike system has been improved since our flood of record in 2011. The dikes have been raised two feet higher than 2011 water levels," stated a news release.
Not far away in Pierson, located in the RM of Edward, water has now submerged the last gravel road that was giving people access in and out of the community.
The three other access roads have been under water since Monday.
Crews are working to make a new gravel road to serve those who remain in the community of 250 people. An evacuation order forced 20 people out of their homes on the weekend.
The municipality has also suspended fuel sales to the public at the local Co-op gas station to save fuel for essential services and emergency crews.
The area in the gold-coloured zone is under mandatory evacuation