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Victims of ice shove qualify for assistance

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Premier Greg Selinger toured the smashed homes and cottages at Ochre Beach Monday morning and declared victims will qualify for disaster financial assistance.

"This is a disaster for sure. And homeowners will be eligible," Selinger said, adding program details will be provided to the community as early as today.

Strong winds caused a massive ice shift on Dauphin Lake early Friday evening, propelling a giant wall of ice against the southwest shore. Some 27 properties were damaged or destroyed. Eight of those were permanent residences.

Ice is beginning to break up on most of Manitoba's large lakes, prompting concern there will be more damage.

Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton told the legislature Monday a big worry is strong southwest winds could shift to northwest this afternoon, creating "a high risk" of shoreline ice pileup on the windward shore of Lake Manitoba.

He said there is a moderate-to-high risk of shoreline ice pileup as well on the shores of Lake Winnipeg and Dauphin Lake. There is also a moderate risk of ice pileup on lakes St. Martin and Winnipegosis.

Selinger and Ashton congratulated municipal and emergency measures officials in the RM of Ochre River Monday for their prompt response to the frightening event.

"The fact there were no significant injuries and certainly, thank goodness, there were no fatalities, is a real testament to the emergency response, and quite frankly, to the quick response of the homeowners in that area," said Ashton.

Selinger said during his tour Monday he heard stories from residents about the sheer speed at which the ice came at them.

"One minute they were looking at it on the front yard and the next minute they were running out the back door as the stuff came through the window," the premier said.

"The one house I was in, the ice came right in and pushed the kitchen island right off its foundation, right back up against the back wall," said Selinger.

"In some cases, I saw houses completely destroyed, I mean just shredded. They were sort of on their side and bent over. It was quite remarkable."

Government officials said a saving grace this year is lake levels are not nearly as high as they were in May 2011 when heaving ice caused so much devastation along the shores of Lake Manitoba.

But provincial officials will be keeping a keen eye on wind forecasts for the foreseeable future.

"People should be aware that what happened at Ochre River could also happen in other areas of the province," Ashton said, adding the government will be in touch with at-risk municipalities so they can warn citizens.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2013 A5

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