Washington – The raging Mississippi River continued to hold the US South in the grip of record-breaking floods on Monday as low-lying parts of Louisiana succumbed to the onslaught.
Officials reminded residents to stay clear of the edges of the flood to avoid dangerous animals unleashed by the floods. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has urged residents near the river to be ‘on the lookout for dangerous wildlife … such as snakes, rats, alligators or any frightened animal.’
in Vicksburg, Mississippi, one of the poorest US states, most of about two dozen casinos were closed due to flooding, adding to the financial misery of the state.
‘All these casinos and hotels along the river are going to have problems with alligators and snakes,’ said Alicia Brooks, a Vicksburg retail store worker, as she watched.
Floodgates at the Morganza Spillway have been opened for the first time in four decades to try to reduce the river’s flood levels at Louisiana’s capital, Baton Rouge, and also New Orleans downriver.
UP to 25,000 people are expected to be affected by the intentional overflow from the spillway. The water was being let in gradually to reduce the force of the water and the wave damage it could cause to inundated buildings, roads and other structures that might later be repairable.
The crest of the flood, which has been moving downstream since early May, is expected to hit New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta region – home to 450,000 people – by the weekend.
The water levels in the region already started receding since the spillway was opened, the Times Picayune newspaper reported Monday.
US President Barack Obama was expected in Memphis, Tennessee, Monday, to meet with victims of the flooding. The crest of the North American continent’s longest river hit the city of blues early last week, leaving many families homeless. Obama also planned to speak at the graduation ceremony of a local high school.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, more spillways could be opened in the coming days to protect larger towns and cities. Thousands of hectares of prime farmland and thousands of buildings are expected to be destroyed.
Reports from Louisiana indicted that many were packing up belongings to flee ahead of the waters, which would take days to rise, but large numbers of people in the swamplands were expected to try to ride out the high water at home.
Local and state authorities were trying to aid the evacuations of people who wished to leave.
Flooding on the Mississippi started hundreds of ilometres upstream and has been gradually flowing down the massive iver basin, which drains the central half of the United States from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains.