Nearly 11,000 people were evacuated in central Michigan after the overflow of two dams that raised fears of “historic” floods, authorities in the northern United States announced on Wednesday.
Heavy rains in recent days have caused breaches at the Edenville and Sanford dams, and caused a sudden rise in the waters of the Tittabawassee River which borders Midland, a city of 41,000 inhabitants 200 km north of Detroit.
About 10,000 city residents and 950 people living in surrounding villages have left the area, Midland County said on its Facebook page.
The flood left no one dead or seriously injured, he said, calling on the population to take refuge with relatives or in reception centers open in emergencies.
This disaster comes when Michigan is one of the states in the country most affected by the coronavirus epidemic. The governor asked the evacuees to wear a mask and to respect the barrier gestures to avoid contamination in the shelters.
“It’s hard to believe that we are in the midst of a crisis that only happens every 100 years, a global pandemic, and that we also have to manage what seems to be the worst flood in 500 years”, said said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has been to Midland.
“People are fine,” she said.
Whitmer declared a state of emergency Tuesday evening, anticipating “historic water levels” in downtown Midland that could end up under nearly three meters of water on Wednesday.
The weather services issued a flood warning bulletin along the river, valid until Thursday morning, saying the situation was “particularly dangerous”.
According to Midland County, the Tittabawassee River reached 10.70 m at midday, and a maximum level is expected at 11.60 m in the evening, a record for this city already hit by a historic flood in 1986.
The Dow chemical group, headquartered in Midland, has announced the implementation of anti-flood measures and the closure of its sites located in the risk zone.
President Donald Trump assured on Twitter that the White House is “closely monitoring” these floods.
“Stay safe and listen to local officials,” he wrote to residents.
He is due to visit a factory of the car manufacturer Ford in Ypsilanti, 200 km south of Midland, on Thursday. Michigan is a key state for the November presidential election in which the Republican billionaire will run for a second four-year term.
“I know the president is coming to Michigan tomorrow, I plan to give him a full account before they arrive,” said Whitmer, a Democrat who has been the target of criticism from Mr. Trump. for refusing to relax containment measures in the face of the pandemic.