Manitoba controlled flood plan appears to be working

Sun May 15, 2011 5:04pm EDT
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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Manitoba's plan to open a dike on the swollen Assiniboine River to avoid a potentially catastrophic unplanned flood appears to be working, officials in the Canadian Prairie province said on Sunday.

Water is flowing through the cut made in a dike east of the community of Portage la Prairie on Saturday, and is spreading over the flat land of southern Manitoba were farmers would normally be planting wheat, canola and vegetables.

Officials estimated on Sunday the flood would cover up to 72 square miles (180 square km) of land over the next few days, but that is down from the 90 square miles (225 square km) they had estimated on Saturday.

The release has helped eased pressure on other dikes along the rain-swollen river that authorities had feared would fail and flood more than 520 square miles (1,300 square km).

"Today, even though more water is coming down the Assiniboine River, water levels downstream of the controlled release have not risen," the provincial government said in a statement on Sunday.

The flood threat has forced more than 3,300 Manitoba residents from their homes, including 1,300 in Brandon, the province's second largest city, which is upstream from where the dike was opened.

About 1,500 military troops have been called in to help local volunteers with sandbag operations.

(Reporting Allan Dowd; Editing by Peter Cooney)

<p>Members of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) work at shoring up a dike along the Assiniboine River near Poplar Point, Manitoba, May 13, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade</p>