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N.B. keeps eye on water levels as flood cleanup continues

Water from the St. John River covers the highway in Maugerville, N.B., Thursday, April 17, 2014.

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

While some New Brunswick communities were still cleaning up Friday after flooding earlier in the week, others were nervously watching water levels and bracing for their turn.

In the northwestern village of Perth-Andover, municipal officials warned flooding was possible by early Saturday as water levels continued to fluctuate.

Village spokeswoman Justine Waldeck said the breakup of ice along the St. John River and at the dam at Grand Falls was a cause for concern.

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"The ice above Grand Falls will eventually give way and we will see that ice come through the dam and then come into our community," Ms. Waldeck said in an interview.

"If we get another two and a half feet [of water] in town, then it will start to cross at our lower lying areas."

Mayor Terry Ritchie called Wednesday for a voluntary evacuation amid fears the St. John River could flood parts of the village, which experienced severe flooding in March, 2012. Waldeck said the voluntary evacuation remained in effect Friday.

"After the 2012 flood, it's still fresh in everybody's mind, so they've (residents) responded very well and have been very co-operative," Ms. Waldeck said. "We're very pleased and very thankful."

Oromocto fire Chief Jody Price urged curious New Brunswickers to stay away from rising, fast-moving waters after two women accidentally drove their car into the St. John River on Thursday.

Mr. Price said one of the women placed a frantic phone call to a 911 dispatcher from the sinking car around 10:30 p.m. after getting too close to the water's edge.

"It was very sketchy, but what they got from the caller was 'Oromocto wharf, car in water, sinking, people in it,' " Mr. Price said. "And then the phone went dead."

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When firefighters arrived on the scene, the two women were swimming to shore, about 15 metres from where they had abandoned the car. They were taken to hospital for treatment of hypothermia.

Mr. Price said firefighters searched for the car, but it had been swept away by the current.

"We're telling people, they've got to be careful around these high waters," he said. "It's extremely dangerous."

A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety said the province's rivers were too unpredictable for residents to let their guard down.

Paul Bradley said water levels were expected to rise in the coming days in communities near Fredericton, including Jemseg and Maugerville. He said officials were also keeping a close eye on ice jams in Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska and Doaktown.

"Even in those places where they're cleaning up, you never know with the amount of water and snow that's still around, there could still be impacts," he said. "We want everyone to remain vigilant and watch water levels."

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Premier David Alward spent Thursday touring areas of the province that were submerged earlier this week when heavy rain and ice jams caused rivers and streams to spill their banks.

During a stop in Sussex, Mr. Alward said the government's priority was to ensure the safety of residents. Crews were expected to begin inspecting homes Friday in the town to determine whether they're safe.

Homeowners and businesses affected by flooding were also being advised to register with Service New Brunswick.

A number of areas throughout Eastern Canada, including Ontario and Quebec, have been contending with floods in recent days.

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