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RM of Edward hit hard

BRANDON -- A small RM in the southwest corner of Manitoba is nearly an island unto itself and has seen exponentially more damage than in 2011.

The RM of Edward has been in a state of emergency since June 5 and the latest wrath of flooding is fraying the nerves of its approximately 600 residents.

"It was $1.2 million in 2011," said chief administrative officer Lisa Pierce. "This is 10 times worse.

"This area won't be habitable if this keeps up."

There are only two ways into Pierson, the RM's only village: a delicate and treacherous back road left open only for a handful of volunteers to make grocery and medicine runs to Melita and a makeshift, two-plank bridge residents are told to use only if necessary.

At least four of the municipality's nine bridges have been destroyed (not including provincial roadways), one of which was rebuilt in 2011 to accommodate the area's increased oil-industry traffic.

"It costs $500,000 to $1 million to build bridges," Pierce said, and the tiny local government has an annual budget of about $2.5 million.

Fuel sales in the RM were cut off on Tuesday to conserve it for emergency vehicles. While access for ambulances remain a concern, the province announced on July 1 it was providing the Westman region with an emergency helicopter stationed in Brandon.

Area stores have taken advantage of the dire situation by hiking prices of equipment such as generators and pumps.

"It's very disappointing that people out there would choose to take advantage of a disaster like this," Pierce said.

Melita and Deloraine are two of the commercial centres for the sparse population of Edward.

"The panic is starting to settle down somewhat, but now there's more of an anxious feeling."

There's also anger. There's anger toward the province for not listening to years of pleas for long-term flood mitigation in the area and anger toward Saskatchewan's illegal-drainage issues widely considered to be the main cause of southwest Manitoba's persistent flooding.

"We're not looking just to get a program to fix to where we were, it's quite clear the landscape has changed," Pierce said.

"We need more. We need mitigation efforts now, we can just keep putting Band-Aids on."

 

-- Brandon Sun

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