Martin pledges aid after seeing Alberta flood damage

Prime Minister Paul Martin promised federal aid to help southern Albertan communities damaged by flooding over the past two weeks, after touring some of the worst-hit towns.

Prime Minister Paul Martin reassured southern Albertan communities that they would get federal aid to help them recover from two weeks of flooding, after touring the worst-hit towns.

"The Canadian government recognizes that this has been a disaster, that families and communities have been affected and we must pay our share," said Martin, after taking a helicopter flight Friday afternoon over the town of High River, south of Calgary.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Anne McLellan accompanied Martin on the tour.

She said she received an official request from Alberta on Friday morning for help through the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program.

"My officials will be working with [provincial] officials immediately to begin to see what the eligible expenses are," McLellan said at the news conference in High River.

She didn't specify how much money might be provided. Some estimates put the overall damage from the heavy rains and flood in the province at more than $200 million.

Martin praises 'spirit' of rebuilding

Martin and McLellan met with the mayors in the some of the communities they visited, as well as speaking with some residents.

The prime minister said he was amazed by how fast people had pitched in to rebuild.

"While it's very clear ... that the residents have been through a terrible experience, I've got to say that the spirit with which they've done the cleanup is really amazing," Martin said.

The Prime Minister was scheduled to continue his tour Friday evening in southwestern Calgary, which also suffered serious damage.

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein has promised to increase the $55-million compensation fund the province has set up, but hasn't said by how much.

While river water levels continue to drop in Alberta, the threat of flooding has moved farther east. Swollen waters from the North and South Saskatchewan rivers have converged to swell the Saskatchewan River.

The rising waters have forced hundreds of people to flee their homes in the northeastern village of Cumberland House and a nearby First Nation.

Across the border in Manitoba, hundreds of thousands of sandbags are being set in place around The Pas.