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First Nations, RMs evacuated as berm crumbles

BIRTLE -- Government officials and curious residents looked on Saturday evening as an embankment several hundred metres long held back water threatening to rush through a valley into Waywayseecappo First Nation.

As of late Sunday, the embankment holding the water destined for Birdtail Creek was cracked and crumbling, prompting an evacuation of low-lying homes in Wayway, Birdtail Sioux First Nation and the RMs of Birtle and Rossburn.

The breach was due to the blocking of a box culvert by ice, causing the water to build up behind the former railroad track, which is now part of the Trans-Canada Trail, about two hours northwest of Brandon.

In the path of the possible surge of water were 12 Birtle and area homes, about 50 kilometres away from the embankment. Evacuation notices were sent to the homeowners. Shanna Turnbull, who had just finished the sale of her split-level home on Thursday, was one of those who received notice.

"Usually it (the water) goes up like this and it goes back down," Turnbull said as a dump truck hauled dirt onto her yard to build up a five-foot dike near the swelling creek.

"I'm leaving for the evening and bringing a bag with me for five nights."

Crews in Birtle started working Saturday afternoon to protect Turnbull's home as well as the town's lift station next door to the home and the water treatment plant after the RM declared a state of emergency earlier in the day.

A floodgate near the town's beach was opened to relieve the water pressure, which caused water to gush into the town's campground and golf course.

Crews placed several concrete barricades on a bridge -- on which a water and sewage line were fastened -- to stop it from breaking apart as water inched higher.

Crews from the Emergency Measures Organization and Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation descended on Birtle with 120 aqua dikes.

Ron Bell, the emergency measures public information manager for both the town and the RM of Birtle, said this level of flooding is unusual for the area that already saw floodwaters begin to drop off.


-- Brandon Sun


Updated on Monday, April 28, 2014 at 1:08 PM CDT:
corrects size of embankment

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That berm should have been lowered when the railway took the tracks off. The damages will be costly to the First Nations and RM's.

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