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Evacuations begin in Brandon as surging Assiniboine threatens dikes

A man near St. Francis Xavier, Man., navigates a swollen Assiniboine River , which has prompted an evacuation order in Brandon.

John Woods/The Canadian Press/John Woods/The Canadian Press

A precautionary evacuation affecting thousands of people has been ordered in Manitoba's second largest city as the flood-swollen Assiniboine River rises dangerously close to the top of the city's dikes.

The notice affects about 900 homes in a widespread area of Brandon known as the Flats.

Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said the evacuation is mandatory and that all those affected have been asked to register with emergency authorities at the city's Keystone Centre.

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"It's time to go," she said Monday. "We can't be waiting until the last minute. We've got to start moving people out."

Decter Hirst expects the evacuation to be orderly. City police went door to door in the area several weeks ago to warn residents they may have to leave.

"The dike has not burst. There are no sirens; there is no panic," she said.

The Assiniboine has already passed the record level in Brandon set during the flood of 1923, and work continues to raise the dikes.

Provincial flood forecasters have said that between 20 and 50 millimetres of rain is expected in southern Manitoba over the next few days.

Manitoba quickly updated its flood forecast for the Assiniboine late last week after discovering it got inaccurate flow data from a malfunctioning gauge on the Qu'Appelle River in Saskatchewan, a tributary of the Assiniboine.

Flooding across Manitoba this year has swamped farmland and closed hundreds of roads. People were also forced from a handful of aboriginal reserves when water cut off road access.

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On Sunday, the military was called in to help shore up dikes on the Assiniboine River between Portage la Prairie and Headingley, which is just west of Winnipeg.

Reservists and most of the troops are already in the province stationed at Canadian Forces Base Shilo.

Winnipeg is not considered to be at risk, forecasters said. The city is protected by a floodway that diverts water into a channel around the city.

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