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Only a matter of time until berm bursts, province says

» Kilometre of backed-up water is more than 30 metres deep

This panoramic photo shows the water build-up above Waywaseecappo as well as the embankment that will eventually fail.

GRAEME BRUCE/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

This panoramic photo shows the water build-up above Waywaseecappo as well as the embankment that will eventually fail.

A crumbling embankment above Waywayseecappo will certainly fail, sending a flash flood down a gully into Birtail Creek, but the only question is when.

The flood waters are expected to threaten several houses as well as bridges and Highway 45, as well a other local infrastructure. At least two dozen homes in the possible path of the flood have been evacuated.

Now, to delay the embankment's failure as long as possible, provincial officials are scrambling to get pumps in place atop the berm, although muddy conditions and steady rain are making that difficult. Premier Greg Selinger, who was touring the area today, said that they hoped to pump water out to relieve the pressure.

Some of the pump trucks are being sourced from as far away as Brandon.

The embankment was orginally built for the railway, but is now a part of the Trans-Canada Trail. Normally, a culvert underneath allows a small creek to pass underneath, but that culvert was blocked by ice, plugging it and backing up a huge amount of water.

The lake behind the embankment is close to 100 feet deep, and by Monday had swollen to cover twice the area it did on Saturday. It was 300 metres wide and backed up about a kilometre.

A government fact sheet issued over the weekend estimated that, once it bursts, water could flow out as quickly as 30,000 cubic feet per second. After gushing through Waywayseecappo, it wil enter the Birdtail Creek, and rush down through the RMs of Birtle, Rossburn and Miniota.

Earlier in the day, in Birtle, Selinger said that he was impressed with precautionary measures that that town had made to prepare for the rising waters. The province has brought in 120 aqua dikes to protect the town, and concrete barricade's have been placed on a Birtle bridge that also carries the town's water and sewage pipes.

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