Canadian troops will be dispatched to Manitoba as the flood threat from the Assiniboine River continues to grow, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

The military will work with local officials in the affected areas to assist those in need and evacuate those in harm's way, Harper said in a statement Sunday.

"I know Manitobans will show the resolve and courage they have demonstrated in the past when facing great adversity. Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents of Manitoba as they endure the devastating effects of these floods," the prime minister said.

Premier Greg Selinger, who had asked for help in a phone call with Harper on Sunday, said the federal government has agreed to send several hundred soldiers to provide support in places where access is difficult.

Selinger told a news conference Sunday night that dikes need to be raised or strengthened in an area along the Assiniboine River that stretches from Portage la Prairie to Headingley, just west of Winnipeg.

"Last weekend's storms and the additional rain forecast in the next two to four days will result in unprecedented flows of water on the Assiniboine River," he said.

"We want to ensure that those dikes are reinforced as much as possible. If anything breaches we'll have a crew of trained personnel — military personnel — that can move very quickly."

Selinger said the soldiers, most of whom are already in the province stationed at Canadian Forces Base Shilo or reservists, will have about three days to do their job. Forecasters said Winnipeg is not considered at risk.

State of emergency

Earlier in the day, Selinger toured the Brandon area — which is upstream from where the soldiers will be working — with Mayor Sheri Decter-Hirst after the city declared a state of emergency.

Decter-Hirst renewed a call for sandbagging volunteers. No property has been flooded to date in the Brandon area but the community is clearly on edge.

About 900 homes and businesses have been placed on evacuation alert in the city of 40,000, which means residents should be prepared to leave their homes on short notice.

City council met Sunday to issue the emergency declaration as river levels rose beyond earlier predicted levels and sandbag dikes were reinforced. The Assiniboine River reached the highest level in Brandon in recorded history last Thursday. Protective dikes were being raised another 36 centimetres Sunday as water levels at the First Street Bridge rose more than 13 centimetres in the past 24 hours.

The emergency declaration allows the city and province to work together on flood protection and response.

About 400 Brandon elementary school students will miss school Monday due to the state of emergency. Kirkaldy Heights School will close for two days because of its location near the river. On Wednesday classes will be relocated to Brandon University.

Crews finished raising dikes Saturday along 1st and 18th streets but several car dealerships have moved their inventory to higher ground.

Ron Ball, president of Precision Toyota, said he made the decision to move out since the river levels are so near the top of a nearby permanent dike.

Car dealers move inventory

Ball says two other nearby car dealers have also moved out inventory. "With the expected rains coming, they're not sure how much work they'll be able to do on the dikes so it's very close to the top of the dike now," he said.  "We've got a lot of inventory so we moved it."

Heavy rains are forecast for Brandon and western Manitoba in the next few days. Decter-Hirst said the rain will have an effect on river levels and the amount of water going through storm drains.

"We'll just keep working as hard as we can, you know, against whatever odds are thrown against us," she said.

People learned Friday that more water than originally estimated would be heading down the Assiniboine River from Saskatchewan.

With files from The Canadian Press