Emergency declared in Manitoba flooding

Mon May 9, 2011 6:20pm EDT
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Manitoba declared a state of emergency on Monday as a rain-swollen Assiniboine River forced hundreds of residents of the Canadian Prairie province from their homes.

Seven hundred soldiers have been called in to help volunteers with sandbagging to increase the height of dikes and keep water from spilling into several communities, including Brandon, the province's second largest city.

About 900 families have been evacuated from low-lying areas in Brandon because of the threat of flooding, officials said, and weather forecasters predicted more rain for the area.

"An unstable weather system is expected to bring between 20 to 40 mm (0.8 to 1.6 inches) of rainfall across most basins in southern Manitoba between today and Wednesday," the province said in a flood statement.

Some areas could see up to 70 mm (2.8 inches) of rain.

Manitoba battled flooding problems last month on the Red River, which flows north into the province from the United States, but the rains were not expected to increase its water levels, officials said.

The Red and Assiniboine join up in Winnipeg, the provincial capital, which has been diverting water around the city by way of a specially constructed floodway.

Troops are also helping fight severe flooding on the Richelieu River in Quebec, south of Montreal. About 3,000 homes have been swamped by that flood, but the water continued to recede on Monday with clear skies in the forecast.

(Reporting Rod Nickel, writing Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)