Flood waters are beginning to recede along the St. John River in western New Brunswick, but some residents were still unable to return to their homes Sunday.

About 500 people in the village of Perth-Andover had to flee their homes Friday when ice jams caused the river to spill over its banks. Another 50 people had to leave the nearby Tobique First Nation.

"We had just enough time to get in the cars, grab a bag and get out," resident Chris Monteith told CTV Atlantic.

Officials were still uncertain Sunday about when a state of emergency in the village of 1,700 would be lifted.

But flood waters had receded Sunday on the village's main street, leaving behind a mess of mud and truck-sized chunks of ice.

Premier David Alward was in Perth-Andover on Sunday and promised the province would help the community.

Damages are estimated at $25 million.

He said there was significant damage to government buildings and about 150 properties in town.

"I know the last few days have been an unbelievably difficult time for this community," Alward told a news conference.

"I sympathize with those folks who have been forced out of their homes by the rising flood waters, the families whose lives have been thrown into chaos the last few days, and the small business owners who are watching their livelihoods become devastated by this event."

Alward reassured residents the flooded hospital will reopen, but he couldn't say when.

One resident surveyed his property and called it a total loss.

"Even if you raised the building up, it wouldn't be safe there. Besides, you couldn't live there due to the mildew and bad odours," said Roy Bowmaster.

For now, only authorized vehicles are permitted in the village. Some displaced residents fear looting.

"What belongings we do have in our homes and apartments could very well disappear if we're not allowed to look after them," Russell Taylor told CTV Atlantic.

In Fredericton, the river is just above the flood stage, as well as the community of Woodstock 100 kilometres northwest of the capital.

The river rose suddenly last week when warmer-than-normal temperatures caused a quick melt and the ice to break up, some of it jamming and backing up water.

"You cannot let your guard down and it doesn't matter whether it's spring frechette or a thunderstorm in the middle of the summer, in occasion flooding, you have got to be prepared to deal with it," said Karl Wilmot of the province's emergency measures organization.

Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors said residents can start filing government assistance claims on Monday.

Those affected by the flood could be eligible for up to $100,000 in assistance under the federal-provincial relief plan.

People whose claims are approved could receive advance payments of up to $4,000 for immediate repairs, the government said.

With files from The Canadian Press and Nick Moore of CTV Atlantic