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Towns near Mississippi still facing more threats of flood devastation

05-06-2011 15:51 BJT

CAIRO, Illinois, the United States, May 5 (Xinhua) -- "We're like a bowl set in a big tub of water. Water is all around us," former Cairo Mayor James Wilson told Xinhua, as he described the situation in Cairo, which has so far been spared of the flooding while towns all around it are submerged in water.

Wilson warned the threat of a water breach that could sink the entire city remains a reality even as the total floodwater level subsided following the decision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to blast the Birds Point-New Madrid Levee.

As it is now, Cairo is about 16 feet below the flood level and the only thing that prevented it from being completely underwater are the levees.

As this developed, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn urged people who have evacuated from flooded communities to heed instruction from public officials about returning to their homes.

Ten communities have issued voluntary evacuation orders, while Cairo called for a mandatory evacuation as river levels in the area began climbing to new record highs.

"We've seen water levels drop in some areas following the Army Corps of Engineers' action Monday evening, but we're not out of the woods yet," said Governor Quinn.

"These are very difficult times for people who were forced from their homes. But it's very important that everyone follow instructions from public officials, who are working day and night to protect lives during this dangerous situation."

On Monday, Governor Quinn traveled to Cairo, where he met with local officials working to save the town of nearly 3,000 from record-breaking flood levels on the Ohio River.

Wilson echoed Quinn's observation saying that possible rains in the next few days could still pose a threat of more flooding.

"Although like today it's sunny and I feel comfortable around the house doing a little yard work, we still have basically water that's about 18-foot higher than the city. So, we felt like we're out of the woods, but we're not even close to being out of the woods yet," Wilson said.

Directly south of Cairo is Charleston, Missouri and several residents are also being affected by the flooding including church members of Pastor Dean Wallace of the Wyatt Baptist Church.

"There are four of our church families that we have to move out of floodway. They've lost their homes. One of them have lost her farms and her livelihood. So, there's a 132,000 acres of prime farmland that has been lost," Wallace told Xinhua in a separate interview in Charleston.

"It's been very stressful and watch them hurt. To hold them while they cry, to pray with them, to spend time with them has been very difficult," Wallace said. "But we will rebuild."

"It's gonna be very devastating financially, economically, mentally, emotionally, it's gonna be tough time," he added.

As of Thursday evening, the National Weather Station have reported that flood water levels have gone down. But it is also reporting that the weather situation in the coming days is also critical in determining whether the water levels in the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers will go up or down.

Meanwhile, the State Emergency Operations Center in the capital Springfield, Illinois is coordinating state' s flood response through 24-hour operation.

Illinois state government is also providing equipment, including nearly 200 portable radios, two mobile command vehicles, two portable communications suites, a supply trailer, equipment to reinforce emergency communications and a mobile fuel tank to support Illinois National Guard operations.

Nearly 450 troops have been deployed to various locations throughout southern Illinois to assist with sandbagging, levee patrol, traffic control, welfare checks and more.

An Illinois National Guard Chinook helicopter was used to move and position more than 2,500 sandbags on a levee in Murphysboro.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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