BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
A road is washed out in the RM of Wallace on the Bosshill Creek on Thursday.
A small rural municipality tucked away in the corner pocket of Manitoba is nearly an island unto itself and has seen exponentially more damage than in 2011.
The drowning RM of Edward has been in a state of emergency since June 5 and the latest wrath of flooding is fraying the final 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 will be uninhabitable 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 a $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 remains a concern, the province announced on July 1 it was providing Westman with an emergency helicopter stationed in Brandon.
Area suppliers have taken advantage of the dire situation by hiking up 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.
"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 issue 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," she said. "We need more. We need mitigation efforts now, we can just keep putting Band-Aids on."
More than 60 people have fled from the area, even though the RM never issued mandatory evacuation orders and between 100 per cent of the area’s crops are likely dead in the water, one more major blow to the ravaged area.
"It’s a crisis," Pierce said.
Coun. Debbie McMechan said she was in touch with a provincial government staffer on Thursday who described an imminent "government roadshow" — a mobile unit that will assess damage across Manitoba.
"Most people out here are pretty resilient," she said. "Our primary concern was making sure people got their medication they needed and food."
Aileen Tucker, who lives about 14 and a half kilometres from Pierson, spent Monday calling as many people as she could within the RM to arrange for volunteers to ferry medication and other necessities from Melita into the near-stranded area.
"We’re doing what we have to do to get through this," she said, "but we’re not feeling we’re getting a lot of outside help."
Meanwhile, as water from Saskatchewan threatens to swell Manitoba’s waterways, evacuation orders for most residents of Virden were lifted yesterday with the exception of 8th Avenue North, where special permission is required to enter homes.
The town is telling people to keep sandbags where they are.
In the RM of Wallace, the news is that the area from the Hamlet of Kirkella to Road 162 stays as a voluntary evacuation on very high alert. Evacuation orders are over in areas south of Virden pending access to homes.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 4, 2014