July 4, 2011 / 6:18 PM / 6 years ago

Manitoba says ready to fight 3rd flood of the year

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Floodwaters rose toward another record-setting crest in the Western Canadian province of Manitoba on Monday, but the provincial government said it is well-prepared to fight the third major flood it has faced this year.

<p>A man looks at a flooded farm field from a deliberate breach of a dike on the Assiniboine River near Newton, Manitoba May 17, 2011. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>

The swollen Souris River, which swamped 3,000 homes in Minot, North Dakota, last month, will reach record-high crests starting as early as Monday as it flows north of the border into Manitoba.

Work by Canadian soldiers and volunteers on hastily raising dikes in southwestern Manitoba’s tiny farm communities was “going extremely well,” and was set to be complete by midday Monday, said Chuck Sanderson, executive director of the government’s Emergency Measures Organization.

Hot, dry weather has aided flood-fighting efforts for the past week.

The Souris River flood follows the larger Red and Assiniboine rivers spilling their banks this spring. Flooding in July is rare in Manitoba.

“This has smashed the records of highest inflow of any flood (season),” said Steve Topping, who is in charge of water control at the provincial government.

Spring rainstorms on ground still saturated from last year have also hit the neighboring province of Saskatchewan and the U.S. northern Plains, a fertile region that usually produces large harvests of spring wheat and durum.

SWINGING BRIDGE CUT DOWN

The town of Souris, Manitoba, cut down a swinging bridge that was a famous local landmark on Sunday for fear that the Souris River would pull down the 582-foot (177.4-meter) span and damage dikes just as the crest approached.

Officials expect the river to crest at the town of Souris -- population 1,800, 250 kilometers (156 miles) southwest of the Manitoba capital of Winnipeg -- between Tuesday and Sunday.

More than 300 Canadian soldiers are in the area to help weary volunteers top up dirt dikes with 300,000 sandbags. Nearly 3,000 Manitoba residents were forced out of their homes as of late last week due to flooding.

On Monday, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said his New Democratic Party government would take several new steps to build permanent flood-protection installations and expand financial aid to residents.

Selinger said that will bring the total cost of flooding this year in the province to “north of C$550 million ($573 million)”. The province hopes to recoup half of that amount from the federal government.

Manitoba is offering its farmers C$194 million in government aid for flooding that it expects to cost the provincial economy C$1 billion.

In April, the province, which will hold an election in October, forecast a C$438-million government deficit for 2011-12, before it knew the full scale of this year’s flooding.

($1=$0.96 Canadian)

Editing by Peter Galloway

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