The Manitoba government said Monday it would offer financial aid for flood victims as wet weather threatened to raise rivers again and prolong an already soggy spring.
The province expects to spend well over $10 million under Disaster Finance Assistance — a long-standing program cost-shared with the federal government that covers large-scale catastrophes. It pays for losses not covered by insurance at private properties, business, non-profits and by municipalities.
“The program will ensure that non-insurable losses — so, damages to basic and essential property, response costs and infrastructure damage — are covered,” Johanu Botha, head of the province’s emergency management organization, said.
Heavy snowfall and spring rainstorms have left many parts of Manitoba flooded, and some 30 municipalities and First Nations are under local states of emergency.
The hardest-hit area is Peguis First Nation, 160 kilometres north of Winnipeg, where some 1,800 people have evacuated homes surrounded or flooded by the swollen Fisher River. The river has dropped in recent days, but with more rain in the forecast this week it is likely to rise again.
“We are expecting flooding to reoccur in areas where the water levels have receded,” read a notice posted Monday on the community’s official Facebook page. The water may rise to a point 30 centimetres above its highest level last week, the notice added.
To the south, the Red River between the United States border and Winnipeg is expected to crest this week.
The river has already become a lake in some areas, flooding farmland and roads including the main highway between Winnipeg and North Dakota. But communities along the Red are protected by dikes and diversion channels that can withstand higher water than there was during the so-called flood of the century in 1997.
The rain forecasted to fall before the end of the week will likely prolong the crest, and could make it higher, Manitoba’s minister for emergency measures said.
“We’re forecasting between 40 to 50 millimetres of rain … that’s going to be the biggest factor,” Doyle Piwniuk said.
The province also announced special one-time funding for municipalities to fix potholes and repair roads that have been damaged by the long winter and wet spring. The potholes have taken a heavy toll on cars and trucks.
“Typically in March and April, we have 60 pothole claims across the province,” said Eric Herbelin, president of Manitoba Public Insurance, the Crown-owned vehicle insurance corporation.
“This year, for the months of March and April, we were at 300-plus claims for each month.”
Premier Heather Stefanson was late to the announcement Monday and said she herself had fallen victim to a pothole on the way.
“You can’t make this up. We actually hit a pothole this morning and I spilled my coffee down me.”