Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Building dikes is tough slogging
Frustrated and exhausted, residents in Elie and farmlands in the path of the coming flood made a mad scramble for sandbags as diking continued for a second day east of Portage la Prairie.
"We’ve been going at it for two days straight, sandbagging. It’s like a war zone," Elie resident Lori Davidson said as she loaded sandbags in a pick-up truck.
Davidson and her partner, Jeff Dales, are doing what everyone in Elie and Oakville is doing: diking their friends' and family’s homes and then getting to their own.
Students from Carman, and Elm Creek sandbagged St. Paul’s Collegiate in Elie, 600 feet around and three feet high.
Prairie Rose School Division superintendent Bruce Wood said St. Paul’s is at risk if the breach takes place, and that any water in the school could affect the boilers and put the school out of commission at least until the fall.
Elie students sandbagged their own homes.
"We’re going where people need help," said Margo Beatty, a teacher from Winnipeg’s Vincent Massey High School, who was with 40 students who were bussed into Elie for the day.
Elie ran out of sandbags Wednesday night. More came Thursday.
By Thursday afternoon trucks loaded with sandbags were lined up in Oakville, where residents got started sandbagging the townsite.
Homes on Oakville’s southern outskirts are already diked and ready.
Beyond the frantic activity, people were clearly frustrated Thursday, buckling under the emotional strain of repeated delays and the physical pain of aching backs, arms and legs.
The province put off making the final cut in the dike, again and again, to give people time to save their homes. But not knowing is tough to take.
"It’s just that we wish they’re figure out what they’re doing, already," said Melanie Janzen, standing in front of a six-foot-high sandbag dike around her farm house, south of Elie.
A crew of 60 including friends, relatives, soldiers and residents of Hutterite colonies raised the dike, knowing it has to hold, maybe for weeks.
Like their neighbours, the Janzens are on evacuation notice; they'll have six hours to get out once the Assiniboine starts flowing in.
"If there is a breach in the dike, we won’t be allowed to come back in," Janzen said.
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