NEWS

Manitoba premier will tour flooded lands next week

06/27/2013 12:22 EDT | Updated 08/27/2013 05:12 EDT
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger says he will tour flooded areas in the southwestern part of the province next week, and those regions will get disaster assistance funds.

The rural municipalities of Albert and Pipestone have declared states of emergency after being slammed by two storms — once on June 22 and the other on June 25.

Officials in the flood-beaten communities have been calling on Selinger to tour the area and offer help in the form of compensation.

"The premier really needs to get out here," said Gavin Mackenzie, a councillor in the Rural Municipality of Albert.

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Said Tom Campbell, reeve of the RM of Albert, "I'm 69 and lived here all my life and I've never seen this much water."

Selinger is travelling to Utah for a meeting this weekend, but he said he will look at the flood damage in person soon.

"I will be out next week. Regrettably, I'm at the Western Governors' Association this weekend," Selinger said Thursday.

"I have talked to the reeve on Monday. I've talked to him again today. He knows that we're interested and we're delivering him good information and support, and we're going to follow up on it early next week."

A spokesperson for the premier said Selinger had made a prior commitment to participate on energy discussions through to Sunday.

The area worst hit by the heavy rainfall was Reston, located between Melita and Virden in the RM of Pipestone.

It has received 245 millimetres of rain from those two storms, which have washed out roads, caused flash floods, and filled basements with water.

Bridges have been washed out, culverts have been dislodged and are in the middle of flooded farmlands, and roads just disappear.

Selinger said there will be disaster financial assistance funding available to repair infrastructure, plus there is a program to cover sewer backups.

"When I get out there next week, we're going to discuss as well what other improvements can be made to make sure the flooding doesn't occur again," he said.

Dozens of homes damaged

In all, 75 homes have been damaged in the RM of Pipestone, and 50 of those are in Reston. Of those 50, about a half-dozen had water up to the main floor.

"The water's been flowing through and flowing into them, so you know it's a fairly large impact on a small town," said Pipestone Reeve Ross Tycoles, adding there will be disaster assistance coming but how much is unclear.

"We have no idea. The premier did call [earlier this week] and said there would be a program. I mean, that was before this next flow," he said.

"This next flow, there's a lot more damage overland and in houses and town."

Officials estimate the total damages could cost as much as $2 million.

Tycoles said he wants Selinger to see how bad the situation in his community really is.

"What we want is for him to have a first-hand idea what the problems are and how we can assess the damages," Tycoles said.

"I guess we'll be looking for support on residents and ratepayers in the area so, I mean, at least then he knows what we're up against."

'We'll rebuild,' says resident

Dallas Williamson's basement has almost two metres of water and he's barely slept since Saturday.

“Panic and adrenaline kicks in and you know, the fear of losing your house is a terrible feeling. But at the same point, everyone's safe; nobody's been injured or hurt," he said.

"It's just property. We'll rebuild.”

Williamson is thankful for the 30 volunteers who dashed to sandbag and save his house.

The town also had to evacuate its health centre because of fears of overloading the sewer system. Patients were sent to other facilities in the region, said Tycoles.

Although the water began to recede Thursday, Reston remained on alert as water continued to drain from the north.

Crews in the RM of Pipestone are trying to clean up in areas that they can get to, while hoping for dry weather, Tycoles said.

Brandon drying out

Homeowners in Brandon are also trying to dry out after Tuesday night's big storm.

Randy Dujardin, who is tearing out a flood-soaked floor these days, said his neighbourhood of Linden Lanes was one of the hardest hit.

His his basement is ruined after sewage backed up when his street flooded.

“The end of our street was like a lake. There were four cars in the lake — they couldn't even get through it — that's how much water was backed up on our street,” he said.

Dozens like him are trying to salvage what they can.

Jennifer Kennedy said her basement filled with three inches of water in just 10 minutes.

“Our sump pump couldn't keep up with everything so of course the basement started flooding and within 10 minutes you don't have a chance — you're bailing and doing what you can but it's really hard to get on top of it,” she said.

The City of Brandon said about a dozen streets were under water but it still doesn't have an official count of how many homes and businesses are affected.

City council has not decided yet if it will ask the province for disaster financial assistance.

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