Soldiers, volunteer rushed to hospital

Sprayed with hydraulic fluid from dump truck


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SOURIS -- On the cusp of what could be the final night of the major flood fight in this pretty Prairie town, the wail of sirens ripped through the streets.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/07/2011 (4062 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

SOURIS — On the cusp of what could be the final night of the major flood fight in this pretty Prairie town, the wail of sirens ripped through the streets.

At about 3:30 p.m. on Monday, soldiers and civilian volunteers were unloading sandbags along the banks of the burgeoning Plum Creek when a hydraulic line on a dump truck blew, splattering fluid over the workers.

The STARS air ambulance and ground ambulances rushed one soldier who had been sprayed in the eyes with hydraulic fluid to the hospital in Brandon.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Soldiers from CFB Shilo work on earthen dikes along Plum Creek in Souris.

Ground ambulances rushed four other soldiers and the volunteer to the hospital in Brandon because Souris hospital’s emergency room was closed due to flooding concerns.

All six people injured were treated and released Monday night, a military spokeswoman said.

CFB Shilo public affairs officer Fraser Logan emphasized the accident would not mar the healthy relationship the military has built with the town, which has been racing against time to raise its dikes before the Souris River starts to crest again.

Tim Smith/Brandon Sun Super-sandbag dike protects properties where Plum Creek meets the Souris River.

“This operation has been done with military precision. Unfortunately, we had a breakdown, but it was mechanical,” Logan said. “Everyone’s looking into that right now.”

Workers resting near where the dump truck blew its hose were also sprayed by fluid but were treated at the site, Logan said.

Before details of the accident were known, Shilo’s Lt.-Col. Michael Wright had just come out of a meeting with staff and was briefing media when the first ambulances raced towards the site. He had not yet been informed about the accident that befell his troops.

Rather, Wright’s mind was on the mission at hand: a mission, flood-fighters hoped, that might be close to finished by Monday night. The crest in Souris could begin as early as today and town, provincial and military workers were keeping a close eye on reports of what will hopefully be its final rise.

“We’re really hoping that tonight we can complete (the work),” Wright said. “The biggest challenge was just the time crunch, knowing that the crest could come so soon.”

The military had been called in at 11:50 p.m. on Friday night. They packed up, hauled out and reached Souris within eight hours. Being armed with the experience of shoring up dikes in Brandon and Portage la Prairie in May helped speed the work, Wright said.

So did the pressure. “It gives (the soldiers) the sense of urgency,” he said. “Yesterday, we had 70 guys who, in an hour-and-a-half, laid 400 metres of geotextile and sandbags along the earth dikes.”

Along the high banks overlooking the Souris River — near where town officials were forced to cut down the town’s famous swinging bridge — residents gasped at the height of the river, which was inching up towards the bottom of the looming super-sandbag dike that surrounds the town’s water-treatment plant.

Back at the Souris fire hall — the centre of emergency operations — a frenzy of volunteers filed in and out, pausing long enough in the hammering July heat to grab a sandwich or a drink brought in by helpful residents. In what could be the final hours of a three-month flood fight, few had time to talk.

At the centre of this storm of work, Souris Mayor Darryl Jackson affirmed the town’s hope Monday night would see the biggest jobs finished — but acknowledged the Souris flood fight may not be over quite yet.

“That’s what we’re pushing for,” he said. “Whether we get there or not remains to be seen.”


— with files from the Brandon Sun

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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