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Brandon shifts aid to Oak Lake

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BRANDON - As the Assiniboine River begins its predicted crest in Brandon today, the city feels confident enough in its flood-protection that it is sending surplus sandbags to help the fight in Oak Lake.

The Brandon Sun is also sending a team to Oak Lake today, where citizens have been rebuffed in their efforts to cut a trench through the highway that is holding back water in the lake.

Provincial officials said yesterday that Oak Lake had surpassed the official flood stage, reaching 430.43 metres above sea level, and hadn't yet reached its crest.

Warm weather has allowed dike improvements to be finished faster and with better materials, the city said this morning at its daily media briefing.

Sunday morning, as a precaution, residents who live immediately north of the river were briefed on what to do in case of a dike breach, although they weren't ordered to evacuate at this point.

Today, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said that there would be a lot of information put out this afternoon about activities for children of evacuee. A movie night, for example, has been planned for Friday.

About 1,300 people remain evacuated from low-lying areas south of the Assiniboine. The province's Emergency Management Organization will pay for reasonable costs for evacuees' pets in kennels, and the province also has counsellors in place to provide help for humans.

The city is also working to gather information for those who are unemployed due to evacuated businesses or layoffs.

For now, workers should call Service Canada for information.

There's no evidence that crime has been a problem in the vacant areas, police said this morning. The evacuation zone has been regularly patrolled by police, Citizens on Patrol, and private security. Access in and out of the zone is tightly restricted.

On Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Victoria Inn, the Brandon Chamber of Commerce will hold a meeting for businesses impacted by the flood. Subjects will include insurance claims and tax issues.

A call for volunteer translators -- including Mandarin and Spanish -- on the weekend was answered and was "very helpful," said the mayor.

Meanwhile, semi trucks are still barred from 18th Street North. Cyclists and pedestrians are asked to avoid the area.

Crews are still working on First Street North. Yesterday, officials were talking cautiously about a mid-week "limited" opening

Highway 110 is still restricted to truck traffic only. It's been reduced to a single lane, and a pilot vehicle is escorting trucks in each direction.

The city holds its morning media briefing every day at 10:30 a.m. This story will be updated.

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