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Prairie parishioners skipping Good Friday and Easter services to deal with floods

Onlookers watch the flood situation in Lumsden, Sask. in the Qu'Appelle Valley town northwest of Regina on Sunday April 17, 2011. The Towns of Lumsden and Craven are under a flood watch as water in the river has reached the tops of the protective dykes installed to protect them.

Roy Antal/The Canadian Press/Roy Antal/The Canadian Press

Church pews in flood-affected communities across Manitoba and Saskatchewan could have fewer worshippers for Easter services on Sunday.

It's expected many parishioners will be too busy lifting sandbags to open hymn books.

Rev. Mary Gavin of St. John's Anglican Church in Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask. says several members of her congregation have been dealing with the rising water in the Qu'Appelle River Valley over the past week.

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One of them is Ron Cox, mayor of the resort village of B-Say-Tah, which is a few kilometres away from Fort Qu'Appelle on the shores of Echo Lake.

Mr. Cox says he missed the Good Friday service because he was simply too worn out from heaving sand bags all day, and he believes he may have to miss the service on Sunday as well.

"I anticipate the people in our village who attend church in Fort Qu'Appelle likely won't be going. They will be too busy battling the flood," Mr. Cox said Saturday, adding that people from Fort Qu'Appelle have also been helping their neighbours.

Echo Lake has been rising all week, and the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority said Saturday that levels on the Qu'Appelle River at the lake were still going up.

Mr. Cox said the water on Echo Lake isn't expected to drop for weeks, which could be a problem if the wind breaks up the ice on the lake and blows it into people's homes.

"All we can do right now is keep our fingers crossed," Mr. Cox said. "And pray."

In Regina, city workers continued to deal with flooding from the Wascana Creek, where a body was pulled from the strong current on Friday afternoon. Police have released few details abut the discovery, only to say that the body was male and that the coroner was investigating.

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The watershed authority said it believed the creek would be nearing its peak Saturday or Sunday.

Across the boundary in Manitoba, all 850 residents of the Roseau River First Nation became the latest flood evacuees in the province due to the rising Red River. Approximately 170 had left by Saturday afternoon, while the rest were expected to leave Sunday and Monday.

They joined almost 1,000 people in the province who have been told to leave their homes on a precautionary basis, largely due to the loss of safe road access in and out of their homes.

Howard Nelson, flood co-ordinator for the Roseau River First Nation, said approval was needed from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada before the evacuation order could be issued. He said that approval was received Saturday morning.

"The buses should be here any second to start hauling people to Winnipeg," Mr. Nelson said Saturday afternoon, noting that some residents were to go to hotels in Portage la Prairie and Brandon.

In northern Manitoba, two of the province's icebreaking Amphibex machines were working to remove ice jams on the Saskatchewan River and the Carrot River which have created high water conditions in the vicinity of The Pas.

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Sandbagging continued Saturday in the area to protect approximately 30 homes.

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