Military joins Manitoba flood battle

About 200 Canadian Forces personnel have joined flood-fighting efforts in southwestern Manitoba where about 1,000 residents of the town of Melita are on evacuation alert.
The first members of the Canadian Forces assigned to help flight imminent flooding arrive in Souris, Man., on Saturday. (Bahador Zabihiyan, SRC)

Canadian Forces personnel will join flood-fighting efforts in Souris, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger announced Saturday.

"The Town of Souris asked the provincial government for additional resources and, given the short time frame and the need to quickly mobilize resources, I authorized the request to the Department of National Defence for military support," Selinger said, announcing 200 troops will be involved.

"We know we can count on the military when we need their help," the premier said. "People in the community have been doing their best, and we need to be sure we do all we can to prepare."

This is what Highway 250, north of Souris, looked like in the early spring during the area's first round of flooding. The worst is yet to come. ((CBC))
The community in southwestern Manitoba is building up its defences for the expected crest of the Souris River on Tuesday. Some dikes may have to be raised to a height of nearly four metres.

The military effort will be co-ordinated by a task force based in Edmonton as troops work with regional authorities.

Lt.-Col. Michael Wright, the officer in charge, said his troops began work along Plum Creek, which flows into the Souris and is threatening to spill its banks.

Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton was amazed flooding remained a danger so late in the year.

"We're now looking at the third crest [this year], which will be at unprecedented levels. It's absolutely unbelievable, that's really the only way to describe it. Here we are in July and we're looking at major flooding that's going to hit the Souris River valley."

In Souris, the town's emergency co-ordinator, Sven Kreusch, said the Souris rose about 30 centimetres overnight.

The Souris River starts in Saskatchewan then meanders through North Dakota before heading north into Manitoba and joining the Assiniboine River at Treesbank.
"We're anxious. We want to get this [diking] complete," Kreusch told CBC News. "We don't want to run out of time we need to stay ahead of the game … it's a bit of a stress factor."

Nearly 200 people in Souris are already out of their homes. 

Upriver in the town of Melita, about 1,000 people are on evacuation alert and Mayor Bob Walker says residents have done all they can to prepare for the imminent flooding.

Residents finished diking businesses and the town's sewer lift system, a major area of concern, two days ago, Walker said.

"We just have to hope the dikes we have established will be able to withstand it," the mayor said, "especially if the water levels are going to be up for any lengthy period."

Business evacuated

So far, eight businesses have been evacuated in the town, leaving an estimated 80 employees out of work. 

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The surge on the river began when a rainstorm last month in Saskatchewan filled reservoirs to their capacity, forcing provincial officials to release the extra water through dams.

Flooding on the Souris River upstream in North Dakota has already damaged 4,000 homes, and farther upstream in Saskatchewan, much of the village of Roche Percee was inundated.

Emergency dikes are also being constructed this weekend in Wawanesa, Man.

With files from The Canadian Press