Catastrophic flooding submerges US Midwest

June 15th, 2008 - 8:07 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 15 (DPA) Sandbag levees have been breached in Iowa’s capital Des Moines swamping yet another Midwestern city following more than a week of heavy rain in the US. Flooding was feared in Des Moines after flood waters across the region continue to rise in what authorities are referring to as a 500-year flood event.

Authorities began to enforce evacuation orders in Des Moines neighbourhoods after a flood wall was breached near a school, broadcaster CNN reported Saturday.

At least nine rivers in the state have breached their banks.

Several other Midwestern states, including Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota also have areas facing major flooding according to the US Geological Survey and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A record cresting of the Iowa River in Iowa City was expected Saturday as the city called for more volunteers to heft sandbags in efforts to keep the river at bay.

Water was still flowing forcefully through downtown Cedar Rapids Saturday where some 1,200 city blocks have flooded and Friday authorities evacuated large parts of the city. More rain was forecasted and a tornado warning was issued late Saturday.

The flooding comes after a week of heavy rains pushed the Cedar River to record highs, causing estimated damage of some $750 million, according to a fire department official. The river crested at over 10 meters, six meters higher than the normal flood stage and four meters higher than the previous record. Fire Department spokesman Dave Koch estimated that it could be as long as ten days till the water is drained from the town.

Hundreds of houses in Cedar Rapids were destroyed or severely damaged. Even a hospital with 176 patients had to be evacuated after water infiltrated the lower floors.

Emergency first responders all across the Midwest are busy monitoring river level gauges and studying maps showing the 100 and 500-year floodplains to manage the impact of the flooding and evacuation orders.

So far 16 storm-related deaths have been reported in Iowa.

CNN reported one death as a result of flooding in Cedar Rapids and a candlelight vigil was held this week in Omaha, Nebraska for four Boy Scouts who were killed during a tornado that tore through an Iowa scout camp June 11. Thousands have been left homeless with 83 of the state’s 99 counties declared disaster areas.

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