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Province sending ambulances to Fargo

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Premier Gary Doer said today four ambulances from Manitoba have been dispatched to Fargo to aid in flood fighting in the North Dakota city.

But a plan to send the city's major incident response vehicle to Fargo has been put on hold. Ambulance coverage will still be met as shifts will be covered off by remaining emergency medical services.

The city's vehicle, a converted bus which is capable of transporting eight patients in stretchers or 10 patients who can walk, was ready to begin driving to North Dakota today, but minutes before it left Manitoba Health put the plan on hold.

"They say the situation in North Dakota is in a much better position," said deputy Winnipeg Fire Chief Ken Sim.

The vehicles are going to be used to help with emergency evacuations of hospitals and personal care facilities.

Doer said the call for help from American officials came overnight with the province responding immediately.

The premier made the comments this morning as he and senior Manitoba MP Vic Toews toured Grand Pointe and Morris to highlight flood protection efforts made since the 1997 Flood of the Century.

Doer, Toews and local officials said these efforts, including the widening of the floodway, will protect most communities.

The evacuation of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation also continues today with plans to bus several dozen more people to Winnipeg.

Curtis Smith, spokesman for the Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters which is overseeing the evacuation, said the remainder of the "priority one" residents, including elders, families with children and people who are chronically ill, will be taken to hotels in Winnipeg tonight.

Smith said the final list of who will be moved out of Roseau is still being developed.

He said decisions about evacuations are being made daily during a conference call between his organization, Roseau's emergency coordinator, provincial emergency officials and other government departments.

Right now it is expected all 800 people from Roseau River will be out of the community by Monday or Tuesday next week, but if the water starts to come up faster that could change, said Smith.

"It all depends on the road," he said.

 The cold weather is helping in local flood fighting as the amount of water in the Red River basin in Manitoba has slowed and the flood peak in Winnipeg is expected mid-April. The floodway gates will operate once the river ice is broken.

The main concern today is ice jams north and south of city.

The St. Andrews fire hall, the hub of volunteer sandbagging activities and evacuee services, is short of people. Reeve Don Forfar said as many as 400 people turned out Thursday, but it’s slower this morning.

Volunteers can simply show up and emergency staff will put them to work.

Forfar said about a dozen people forced to leave their homes earlier this week as ice jams backed up the Red River are likely heading home to inspect the damage today.

Next on his radar, as the ice jam lingers near Lockport and Lower Fort Garry, is the Mapleton area south of Selkirk. Once the ice starts moving, it might clog up again near Mapleton.

Overland flooding is also a new worry. If the weekend brings warmer temperatures, frozen drains and culverts won’t be able to handle the melt. There’s no telling yet where that flooding might happen.

— with files from staff

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