Clinton holds his flood summit six feet from disaster

PRESIDENT Bill Clinton held a 'flood summit' in St Louis yesterday as the Mississippi rose to a record 46ft above its normal level, just 6ft from overflowing the floodgates that protect the metropolitan area of 400,000 people.

He is considering sending in federal troops to help victims of the deluge, which has killed 27 and caused dollars 5bn damage.

As thunderstorms dumped more rain on the flooded Midwest, Mr Clinton and members of his cabinet met in a suburb to the south of the city to hear an update from governors of nine flood-damaged states. The President toured the area in a helicopter.

Aides said Mr Clinton wanted to see the spot where the swollen Missouri River broke through a levee on Friday and converged with the Mississippi River, forming a gigantic expanse of water, miles north of where the two rivers usually join.

Mr Clinton has already announced a dollars 2.48bn emergency aid request. He was making his third trip yesterday to the region since flooding began.

The great flood continued as 5in of rain fell on central Iowa. Heavy rain also fell in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska and parts of Wyoming.

One storm poured torrents of water into the South Skunk River near Ames, Iowa, which was almost cut off by flooding a week ago. The Ames area, 30 miles north of Des Moines, received as much as 4in of rain within six hours yesterday, the National Weather Service reported.

Flash flooding struck sparsely populated areas of the eastern Dakotas. In north-eastern South Dakota, a flood warning was posted for the James River, a tributary of the Missouri.

No immediate relief was in prospect. Thunderstorms remained likely for several days as a cold front settled over the Plains, the weather service said. Scattered thunderstorms were expected to produce torrential rain in Iowa. The flood is blamed on months of above-average rainfall.

More than 7,000 people heeded warnings and left the flooded area where the Missouri converged with the Mississippi. One woman who stayed, 72-year-old Geraldine Fichter, died despite efforts of rescuers, who cut her from a submerged car.

Officials in Des Moines said many of the 250,000 people without running water, because of a flooded water plant, would not get supplies back until at least the middle of this week. Water may not be drinkable for a month.

(Photograph omitted)

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