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Residents in southwestern Nova Scotia anxiously watch water levels

For Bill Muise, the deluge of water that forced him from his home in southwestern Nova Scotia makes him wonder about leaving permanently.

Standing next to a highway under water that cuts off access to his home near the small Acadian village of Quinan, he was among an estimated 120 people who had to leave their homes after four days of rain.

More than 200 millimetres of rain have fallen here since Friday, causing rivers to swell and at least one bridge to collapse.

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"If someone said to me, 'Here's some money, Bill,' I would go, no questions asked," he said Tuesday, recalling a similar period of flooding in 2003.

The 46-year-old man said his basement was flooded with almost two metres of water, while some of his neighbours' residences were half-submerged.

A bridge over the Tusket River on Highway 3 collapsed Tuesday night, said Clinton Saulnier, an official with the Emergency Management Organization in the Municipality of Argyle.

Mr. Saulnier said it happened at about 8:30 p.m. and the cause wasn't immediately known.

There was also anxiety about whether a dam and the earth berms around it would hold up against the rising waters. If breached, more homes north of Yarmouth could be flooded.

Patty Faith, a spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Power, said workers were monitoring the level and flow of water into Lake Vaughn near Raynardton.

"Our crews will stay on site and continue to monitor that water level through due course until that begins to normalize," Ms. Faith said.

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Heavy downpours have forced road closures in the region and left many residents worried about the prospect of being stranded. A state of emergency has been declared in parts of Barrington, Argyle and Yarmouth.

In houses just north of Quinan, furnaces are ruined, basements flooded, and many residents were worried about their pets and farm animals, Mr. Muise said.

He said he believes the flooding in the region is worsening with each decade.

"I took pictures and brought them to my 93-year-old grandmother. She said there's a dam that broke in the 1950s, but even then the waters didn't come this high," he said.

In his family's case, the evacuation was especially trying. Mr. Muise has two children with special needs - a 17-year-old son with autism and a 21-year-old daughter with developmental disabilities.

"When you take them out of their own setting like that, it's hard. It's very hard," he said.

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Other relatives waited by a roadblock in the largely francophone community, wondering if their families might arrive by boat to stay the night.

Kevin D'Entremont said he wasn't sure if his parents might have to leave.

"The river is getting closer and closer to the front door ... but hopefully in the next few days it will go down," he said.

Premier Darrell Dexter is scheduled to travel to the area Wednesday for a first-hand look at the flood damage. He has said it will likely take weeks for provincial infrastructure officials to assess the extent of the damage.

Ramona Jennex, the minister of emergency management, said the recent heavy rainfall has caused transportation and other problems across the province, but particularly in southwest Nova Scotia.

"It's absolutely mind-boggling how much water is down in that area," Ms. Jennex said in an interview. "A couple of days ago, an area where you could go and walk over a field, [there is now]eight feet of water.

"People are out rescuing people and moving people around in boats and that is a concern."

Mr. Dexter said officials will prioritize the needs of various communities and put in place temporary solutions before looking at long-term replacements for damaged bridges and dams.

The Red Cross said volunteers were available in Hebron, Quinan and Tusket to assist residents who've left their homes.

"However, most of the affected residents have remained in their homes, or have made their own arrangements to stay with family or friends in safer areas," the organization said in a statement.

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