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Sixteen dead in America as Midwesterners eye rising rivers

By Agencies


Flood-weary Americans fought on Friday to save their homes and businesses from rivers spilling over their banks after rainstorms blamed for at least 16 deaths moved through the Midwest.


Thousands of people from Arkansas through Ohio were staying in shelters or with relatives as flood waters lapped against their homes.


To the north, a fresh snowstorm blew through Minnesota and into the Chicago area, prompting authorities to cancel flights protectively. Forecasters said the storm could leave as much as 23cm of heavy snow in the region.


A blizzard warning remained in effect in northern Maine, where fierce winds had already scattered a foot (almost half a metre) or more of snow.


“Even though it was spring yesterday, we still have winter on our doorstep,” spokeswoman Ginny Joles of Maine Public Service, northern Maine’s major electric company, said on Friday.


Thursday, the first day of spring, brought much-needed sunshine to some flooded communities, but many swelling rivers were not expected to crest until the weekend in Arkansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, southern Indiana and Kentucky.


The worst flooding happened in smaller rivers across the nation’s midsection. Major channels such as the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers saw only minor flooding.


Homeowners, merchants and even schools in parts of Missouri, Indiana and Arkansas were building sandbag walls around their homes and moving to higher ground.


In Batesville, Arkansas, antique mall operator Marcia Weaver stood along the banks of the Spring River and watched as pieces of lives were washed away.


“There were large pieces of furniture, dressers, picnic tables from the parks. I saw a four-wheeler going down. Lots of canoes and kayaks that didn’t have anybody in them,” she said.


Rivers receded on Friday in Ohio, however, but several areas were still under flood warnings. About 70 state roads were closed or partly blocked by flooding, according to the State Highway Patrol.


At least 16 deaths have been linked to the weather over the past few days, and at least two people were missing.


Searchers in Texas recovered the body of a teenager from waist-deep water Thursday; the boy had been washed down a drainage pipe. Two people in Arkansas whose vehicles were swept away by rushing water on Tuesday were still missing.


Government forecasters warned that some flooding could continue in the coming days because of record rainfall and melting snow packs across much of the Midwest and Northeast. (AP)