Raccoon River floods deprive Des Moines of drinking water

David Usborne
Tuesday 13 July 1993 23:02

AS FLOODWATERS continued to ravage large areas of six Midwestern states, the city of Des Moines, Iowa, already inundated and without tap- water since the weekend, was braced for worse to come after further torrential rain yesterday.

A renewed burst of thunderstorms in Iowa and other affected states led the National Weather Service to issue an urgent warning of further flash flooding.

Flooding along the northern stretches of the Mississippi River as far south as St Louis and its tributaries has caused an estimated dollars 5bn ( pounds 3.4bn) in damage to crops and property and at least 20 deaths. Even before the rain's return yesterday, 2 million acres were under water and 34,000 homes evacuated.

Further evacuations were ordered in the Des Moines suburbs close to the Raccoon River, which has been mainly responsible for the soaking of the city and putting its only water treatment plant out of commission. Even if the new flood tide can be kept back, the city is likely to be without drinking water for a month.

The White House was expected to declare the whole state of Iowa a disaster area. It seems unlikely that a federal aid package of dollars 1.2bn announced by President Clinton will come close to meeting the clean-up costs. Almost 8,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.

'We are on top of the situation and we're going to stay on top', the Vice- President, Al Gore, said yesterday after touring the region. Mr Clinton said he was cutting short his Hawaii holiday to make a return visit to the area - his second in two weeks. On the Mississippi itself, the waters were expected to rise still further, perhaps reaching a crest next Sunday. Even when the rains ease, it may be several weeks before the river returns to its normal level.

People in Des Moines were forced to queue up at makeshift water distribution points and portable lavatories. Water rations were to be increased from two gallons a day per family to five. An emergency inoculation programme was also ordered yesterday to avert any outbreak of water-borne diseases. 'This is going to be disastrous for us,' said the mayor of West Des Moines, Dino Rodish.

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