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The Globe and Mail

Flooding threat forces patients to evacuate Saskatchewan hospital

Ditches overflow with rain water near a car dealership in Melville, Sask., on June 29, 2014.

Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

While the Premier of Manitoba toured his province's flood zone, emergency officials across the border in Saskatchewan evacuated patients from a hospital and long-term care facility as the larger bodies of water on the eastern Prairies continued to rise.

Premier Greg Selinger said water from Saskatchewan is flowing toward troubled Manitoba communities, adding to the distress of tens of thousands of people affected by washed out roads, flooded homes and destroyed crops. "The amount of damage done to the infrastructure here is extensive," said Mr. Selinger during a stop in Melita, a village nestled in the far southwest corner of Manitoba that was particularly hard hit. "It's been brutal. It's unbelievable the amount of precipitation that has fallen in this area here. Everybody is affected."

In southeastern Saskatchewan, the Pearl Creek, a tributary of the Qu'Appelle River, spilled water around an overloaded dam in Melville, Sask., leading to the precautionary evacuation of 150 people from adjoining St. Peter's Hospital and St. Paul Lutheran Home and a frantic sandbagging effort.

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"The dam is holding, but water is going around it, and that is causing the issue," said Patrick Boyle of the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency. "But the water has not touched the building. There is no immediate threat."

Patients were transferred to nearby hospitals and residents of the long-term care facility were taken in by family or kept temporarily at the local hockey arena. Sandbag dikes around the hospital and home care were holding late Wednesday.

Manitoba moved a provincial rescue helicopter to Brandon and opened up the Red River Floodway in Winnipeg on Tuesday as major waterways absorbed record rainfalls in Saskatchewan that caused flash flooding in creeks and streams, and sent water into major waterways like the Assiniboine and Souris Rivers and Lake Dauphin.

"There are additional challenges to the north of here and the Interlake, but the major threat remains in the southwest," Mr. Selinger said.

Mr. Selinger said an "unprecedented weather event" dropped a season's rain in 48 hours on a region that had already received 200 per cent of the normal spring rainfall.

The Premier noted the province is used to dealing with major flooding from relatively predictable spring runoff, but flash floods from such a deluge "require you to be very agile and nimble to respond."

Cottagers in Round and Crooked Lake, also part of the Saskatchewan's Qu'Appelle system, were also warned water is rising to flood levels.

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In Foam Lake, Sask., Annette Warnatsch said she lost the battle to keep water from filling the basement of her modest home on the edge of town. "My pumps broke, I can't find a plumber, I can't do anything," she said, as Monday's panic turned into resignation Tuesday. "And the stores are closed for Canada Day. I don't get it."

More than 80 communities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are under states of emergency.

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