Sanford — More than 10,000 residents have evacuated their homes in Michigan in the US after two dams failed following heavy rain and triggered what officials warned will be historic flooding.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Midland County, site of the breached dams, in the towns of Edenville and Sanford.
The weather service warned of life-threatening flash flooding and joined the governor in urging people in the area to seek higher ground immediately.
The midtown area of Midland, a city of 42,000 people, could soon be under 3m of water, according to Whitmer, who warned of “historic” high flood levels.
The city said on its website that 11,000 people were evacuating and that no deaths had been reported. “Residents are strongly urged to continue evacuating,” the city said.
Authorities said the Tittabawassee River that flows through Midland is well above flood level and is expected to rise another metre before cresting. Images taken from helicopters show vast stretches of land underwater, bridges washed away and homes and buildings flooded.
The flooding disaster and the evacuation are being compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced people to observe social distancing.
“It’s hard to believe that we are in the midst of a 100-year crisis, a pandemic, and that also we’re dealing with a flooding that looks to be the worst in 500 years,” Whitmer said.
The governor urged those evacuating to shelters to wear face masks and maintain social distancing when possible.
Multiple rivers in Michigan, a northern state surrounded by the Great Lakes, had reached flood stage by Tuesday after heavy rain fell in recent days.