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RESIDENTS OF PRAIRIE TOWNS BATTLE TO SHORE UP DIKES.

Byline: Associated Press

With rain slowing their work, exhausted residents of the little prairie farm towns near the U.S.-Canada border manned the dikes Saturday as they worked to hold off the swelling Red River.

Ron Bordeniuk and just five others have stayed home in St. Vincent, population 100, working long hours to shore up the dikes against the water that surrounds the town. National Guard trucks bring other residents back to join them during daylight hours.

Bordeniuk, a mechanic and a City Council member, has been getting about two hours of sleep a night and was weary from worry as much as physical labor.

``There's old people calling me up at night, asking if I can save stuff for them,'' he said, putting his head down as tears welled in his eyes.

A similar battle was going on across the river in Pembina, N.D.

Hardly anyone was using the bridge connecting the two towns, so a St. Vincent hardware store put about 30 lawn mowers above the reach of the water as a precaution.

The river at St. Vincent, about two miles south of the Canadian border, was at 55 feet Saturday, and was predicted to crest Sunday or early Monday at 56 feet. That would be 6 inches below the top of the clay-and-sandbag dike that surrounds the town.

Bordeniuk said residents feel that St. Vincent and other towns like it are too small to get much attention from the government, although the state had sent National Guard members to help out.

Much of the focus has been on Grand Forks, N.D., about 50 miles upriver, where most of the 50,000 residents were evacuated and then fire destroyed a block of the downtown.

The river crested Monday at Grand Forks and started to slowly recede.

Among those who had moved out of St. Vincent were Verna Lofberg and her husband, Mayor Lorne Lofberg.

``We don't know what the weather is going to do,'' Verna Lofberg said.

They had piled furniture, canned food, a toaster and knickknacks into their upstairs bedrooms, emptying kitchen cupboards and leaving only a hanging plant and drapes in the first-floor living room.

Across the U.S.-Canada border, Manitoba had evacuated 17,000 residents along the Red all the way to Winnipeg, about 55 miles to the north, and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien went to the region on Saturday to announce disaster assistance.

Carol Dynkavitch and a legion of friends and relatives struggled to strengthen a dike around her house near Brunkild, Manitoba.

``This is the farm my dad grew up on, so it's a big deal,'' said Dynkavitch, 31. ``If and when they say to go, it'll be really hard to walk away.''

In Winnipeg, which officials insist is largely safe because of a floodway built to divert water around the city, dazed evacuees streamed into an arena to register for accommodation, food vouchers and other assistance.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 27, 1997
Words:489
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