US & Canada

Mississippi River levee to be breached for third time

An aerial photo showing the threat of massive flooding in Missouri
Image caption The levee was first breached on Monday to relieve a flood threat in the state of Illinois

US government engineers will blow up a third section of a Mississippi River levee in Missouri to relieve a flood threat, as rising waters continue to threaten towns in several US states.

Officials hope the new blast on the Birds Point levee will divert water for 35 miles (56km) before returning it to the river in the town of New Madrid.

The levee was first breached on Monday in order to save a town in Illinois.

The detonation sacrificed 200 square miles of farmland in Missouri.

'Disaster areas'

The third blast was originally scheduled for Wednesday but was delayed until 1300 local time (1800 GMT) on Thursday due to logistical difficulties, said the Army Corp of Engineers, which is responsible for the system of locks and dams along the Mississippi River.

On Thursday, Arkansas closed a large section of Interstate 40, one of the busiest roadways in the nation, due to increased water levels, the state's transportation department said.

President Barack Obama declared regions in the states of Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky disasters areas on Wednesday, making the states eligible for federal help with relief efforts.

Thousands of people from the states of Illinois to Louisiana have already been forced from their homes, as waters continue to rise.

Forecasters said the rising water levels could break some of the high-water records set during floods in 1927 and 1937.

By blowing a hole in the levee on Monday night, the Army Corps of Engineers hoped to reduce the river level in Cairo, lessen the pressure on the flood wall over the town, and relieve the flood risk further down the Mississippi River.

Water levels receded after the first blast and a second section of the levee was detonated on Tuesday to allow the water back into the river.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites