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Canadian capital braces for flood as heavy rain returns

Credit: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Canada's capital city of Ottawa readied on Friday for heavy flooding as rains were set to hammer the highly engorged Ottawa river, threatening hundreds of homes amid a disaster that has already led to evacuations and one death in neighboring Quebec.

By Julie Gordon

OTTAWA, April 26 (Reuters) - Canada's capital city of Ottawa readied on Friday for heavy flooding as rains were set to hammer the highly engorged Ottawa river, threatening hundreds of homes amid a disaster that has already led to evacuations and one death in neighboring Quebec.

The looming flood, which could rival 2017 spring flooding that caused more than C$230 million ($171 million) in insured damages in Ontario and Quebec, prompted the City of Ottawa to declare a state of emergency on Thursday.

Both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Canada's Safety Minister Ralph Goodale pledged support to the city on Friday, with the Canadian military preparing to send in troops to help with sandbagging and other emergency preparation.

"This is a broad-spread problem. We are working diligently and in close collaboration with all provincial and municipal authorities ... to be as effective as we possibly can be in keeping Canadians safe," Goodale told reporters.

Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning early Friday, warning Ottawa could see up to 35 mm (1.38 inches) of rain over 24 hours, noting the situation would be complicated by "the limited ability of the ground to absorb this rainfall."

This follows days of flooding in neighboring Quebec, where nearly 5,500 homes have been affected and more than 1,000 people evacuated, according to Urgence Quebec. One woman died after her car was caught in road washout caused by rising waters.

The Canadian military has already deployed some 1,000 troops to Quebec, and the City of Ottawa has requested roughly 400, though Goodale said it was still determining the exact number to be deployed in Ontario.

Separately, surging waters on the Rouge River in Quebec continued to threaten a hydroelectric dam at Bell Falls, forcing the evacuation of some 250 people, though a Hydro Quebec spokesman said the structure was still holding.

"If the dam were to give way, people in the area would have less than an hour to get out of the way of that surging water," said Goodale. "The wise thing would be to get out in advance."

Both provincial and federal authorities said that the severity of the floods, which experts say could be worse than in 2017, could be attributed to climate change.

In the east coast province of New Brunswick, floodwaters were starting stabilize and even drop in regions, but rain was forecast, prompting concerns the situation could again change.

($1 = 1.3450 Canadian dollars)

(Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

((julie.gordon@thomsonreuters.com; 613-235-6745; Reuters Messaging: julie.gordon.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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