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More military deployed to cottage country floods

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Communities in central Ontario's flood-ravaged cottage country worked to stave off more damage yesterday while bracing for heavy rainfall forecast for later in the week.

More military personnel were deployed throughout the region and municipalities called on volunteers to help replenish the supply of sandbags as parts of the Muskoka and Kawartha regions remained under water thanks to surging lakes and rivers.

Local authorities said the rapid rise of water levels had begun to slow but the spectre of intensified flooding surfaced in the latest Environment Canada forecast.

A special weather statement covering much of central Ontario called for between 20 and 40 additional millimetres of rain to fall beginning tomorrow, placing potential new strains on the handful of communities that have already declared states of emergency.

In Bracebridge, Ont., where an emergency declaration was issued last week, residents prepared to welcome additional military members brought in to help manage flood conditions.

Mayor Graydon Smith said 30 more soldiers were slated to join the 60 had that arrived in the area on Sunday, adding all would spend their time filling and deploying sandbags while helping with emergency evacuations as needed.

“We were very pleased to see support from our Canadian military,” he said.

“We appreciate it greatly, and you're making a profound difference to the folks here in Bracebridge.”

Smith said that while a drinking water advisory issued by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit remains in place for those consuming well water, municipal water sources have not been contaminated by the flooding.

Bracebridge was one of three municipalities in the Muskoka District to declare a state of emergency after spring runoff and heavy rainfalls drove water levels to historic highs.

The district declared its own state of emergency for the whole area in addition to the local ones in place in Bracebridge, Huntsville and Muskoka Lakes Township.

The community of Minden Hills, east of the Muskoka area, also declared a flooding emergency.

Muskoka Lakes Township issued an update Monday saying water levels had begun to recede in Huntsville and stabilize near Bracebridge, but noted the Moon River had risen 16 centimetres in the past 24 hours. Lakes Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph rose modestly by between two and six centimetres, the township said.

Despite the slower rise, the township issued a call for volunteers to come fill sandbags for two hours yesterday afternoon. It also urged those living near the Moon River to consider evacuating from their properties.

Ontario Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski issued a statement of support for cottage-country residents that also outlined measures the Progressive Conservative government previously took in anticipation of higher water levels, including removing logs to ensure water flow and drawing down lakes in the area.

“This is a very challenging time for many residents in Muskoka who are experiencing high water in their community and flooding in their homes,” Yakabuski said.

“I want to assure residents that my ministry has taken action to mitigate flooding and will continue to do what we can to assist.”

Hydro One also issued a statement promising to waive delivery charges and connection fees for customers affected by flooding.

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