June 17, 2008

Worries Over What’s in Water — Some Iowa Flood Victims Start Cleanup As Cresting Poses Threats Downriver

By Allen G Breed

OAKVILLE, Iowa - When the water rose around his family's hog farm, 15-year-old Logan Lanz tried to get their 800 piglets out of harm's way. Instead he found himself wading through floodwater choked with the animals' bodies.

"We only got seven of them out," he said on Monday.

Most of the farm's 350 sows also were lost Sunday to the floodwaters, now filthy brown with pig waste, diesel fuel, farm chemicals and who knows what else. Officials warned people to stay out of the water, but in Oakville, pig waste and diesel fuel combined to create a stench that was warning enough.

"You can hardly stand it," Logan's grandfather, Bob Lanz, 71, said as he motored through in a 22-foot aluminum flatboat.

In downtown Cedar Rapids, all manner of refuse could be seen floating down the Cedar River - 55-gallon drums labeled "corrosive," propane tanks, wooden fences and railroad ties. Dead birds and fish sat on the city's 1st Avenue Bridge.

LeRoy Lippert, chairman of emergency management and homeland security in Des Moines County, warned people to avoid the floodwaters: "If you drink this water and live, tell me about it. You have no idea. It is very, very wise to stay out of it. It's as dangerous as anything."

In addition to the poison in the water, there are mosquitoes - millions of them spawning in acres of standing water.

As some of Iowa's flooded towns began cleaning up Monday, others braced for new flooding risks, particularly in southeastern Iowa along the Mississippi River. Most requests for state aid were coming from Des Moines County, where the Mississippi was not expected to crest until Wednesday. The county had asked for a half-million sandbags.

A map obtained by The Associated Press showed the federal government predicting that 26 levees could potentially overflow along the Mississippi in the next week if the weather forecast is on the mark and a massive sandbagging effort fails to raise the level of the levees.

"We have just begun to fight," Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said. Two more deaths were reported Monday, including a woman whose car was hit by a National Guard truck, bringing the state's death toll to five.

Elsewhere, damage in the college town of Iowa City appeared limited. Some 400 homes took on water Sunday, and 16 University of Iowa buildings sustained some flood damage over the weekend. But the town's levees were holding and the Iowa River was falling.

In northeast Missouri communities along the Mississippi, armies of Mennonites and Amish worked sandbag lines with convicted felons, college students and other volunteers in a race to beat the rising river. The very wide Mississippi was forecast to crest in the area by mid- to late-week.

"Today is our critical day, we need to get it done," said Monica Heaton, spokeswoman for Canton's emergency operations center.


Deluge in China

1.27 million flee, at least 112 dead

FOSHAN, China - Weeks of rain pushed rivers over their banks in southern China, displacing more than 1.27 million people and forcing some to huddle on rooftops today as the region braced for more downpours.


The Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing reported the flooding has killed at least 112 people in 12 provinces.

In a posting today on its Web site, the ministry said 57 of the deaths were in the central and northern provinces of Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi. The 55 other fatalities were in nine southern provinces: Guangxi, Jiangxi, Hunnan, Hubei, Guangdong, Guizhou, Yunnan, Zhejiang and Anhui.

The floods have damaged crops across more than 2.12 million acres, washed away tens of thousands of homes and caused more than an estimated $1.5 billion in economic losses.

The Xijiang River's muddy, chocolate-brown waters overflowed in Foshan, a city in Guangdong province. Farmers ditched their plows and waded into the neck-high waters with nets to catch fish.

The Beijiang River, which converges with the Xijiang in Foshan, swallowed a neighborhood that had been home to about 100 people.

"The water came in fast. It started rising yesterday morning, and by noon our homes were swamped," said a man who gave his name only as Huang, standing on a dike staring at his inundated home across the Beijiang River.

"We had to do the same thing during the flood in 2005, which was much worse than this one. The government ignored us then and it's ignoring us now."

The flooding was the third major natural calamity to strike China this year as it gears up to host the Olympics in August. Freakish blizzards paralyzed southern provinces in February, and last month's earthquake in Sichuan killed nearly 70,000 people.

- Associated Press


Originally published by Allen G. Breed Associated Press .

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