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Nameless angel helps Dakota rise above the floods

There is nothing like a flood to bring out the American community spirit. We saw it in 1993 when the Mississippi drowned swathes of the Midwest and we witnessed it again this month as the Red River ran riot in North Dakota - legions of citizens pitching in to save homes and neighbourhoods.

The generosity of one woman will surely be hard to beat, however. Without revealing her identity, she has pledged $2,000 (pounds 1,250) of her own money to every household hit by flooding this month in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and neighbouring East Grand Forks in Minnesota.

Officials said that a sum of $2m had been transferred into a city account by Tuesday and distribution to the worst-hit households had already begun. With at least 5,000 homes likely to qualify, the total cost to the mystery angel could be between $10m and $15m.

"God has answered our prayers," Grand Forks Mayor Pat Owens said of the gift. "He has sent a person as an anonymous donor who cares about each and every one of us in this region and wants to help you without any repayment. It is a ray of hope so we can build our future."

The benefactor, who is said to have no personal links to North Dakota, was presumably moved by the images beamed from Grand Forks 10 days ago when the cresting waters forced the evacuation of its entire population and part of its centre was gutted by a fire no one could put out.

While the worst is over,50,000 people in the city remained homeless yesterday.

In the meantime, the crest of the flooding Red River has travelled north into Manitoba, Canada, causing the evacuation of 8,000 people from their homes in Winnipeg on Tuesday. Manitoba is braced for its worst floods since 1852.