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Vulnerable Manitoba homes protected as flood crest heads for southwest

Military from Shilo work to fill and load sandbags in Portage La Prairie, Man., on July 5, 2014.

JOHN WOODS/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Several days of frantic sandbagging is paying off in southwestern Manitoba as a crest of floodwater is expected to pour through the region in the next 24 hours.

Roger Poitras, reeve of St. Francois Xavier west of Winnipeg, said all of the most vulnerable homes along the swollen Assiniboine River have been sandbagged.

By the end of Tuesday, he said all the homes at risk of flooding should be protected.

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"We feel pretty confident that everything is going to be fine," he said.

"Now, it's just to see how the river handles the flows and if the dikes are going to hold up well. We're confident and we've been told things should work out quite well."

Roland Rasmussen, reeve of Cartier further west, said they will also be ready when the crest of floodwater is expected to hit by midday Wednesday.

Most of the 60 vulnerable homes are now protected and much of the sandbagging at this point is just precautionary, he said.

Some of the most vulnerable homes built up their flood protection after the 2011 flood, making the municipality's job a little easier, he said.

"We're as ready as we can be," Rasmussen said.

A torrent of floodwater from Saskatchewan is making its way through Manitoba now. The crest passed through Brandon, Man., Sunday without topping the city's dikes or forcing evacuations.

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Manitoba is expecting the Assiniboine River to rise to same levels as the 2011 flood – one of the worst in the province's history.

The surge prompted Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger to declare a state of emergency Friday and ask for military assistance to prepare homeowners.

About 350 homes are considered vulnerable to the rising water – 150 of those could flood if the province decides to deliberately breach a dike at the Hoop and Holler Bend to take pressure off the dikes downstream.

Maj. Mike Legace said Canadian Forces members have been working around the clock making sandbags and building up dikes to fend off the rising river. They are making roughly 100,000 sandbags a day, adding to the province's arsenal of one million sandbags.

On top of building up temporary dikes around vulnerable homes, military helicopters are surveying the region and troops have also shored up some weak spots along the province's dikes to prevent a breach.

"We're meeting the needs of what the province wants us to do, as best we can do it, and then we'll just start holding our fingers crossed and hope for the best."

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