Parts of US Midwest deluged in historic deadly floods


Chicago (AFP)

The US Midwest struggled Monday with historic flooding that claimed at least three lives, displaced residents and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.

Swollen waters hit much of Nebraska, as well as parts of Iowa and Wisconsin. All were under states of emergency after a major storm last week dumped snow and rain, even as melting snow was already raising the levels of area waterways.

Neighboring states could also be affected as floodwaters drain, officials said.

"Major to historic river flooding is expected to continue across parts of the Missouri and Mississippi River Basins due to rapid snow melt the past few days," the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

"Flood warnings and advisories remain in effect, mainly across eastern Nebraska and into parts of Iowa."

Across Nebraska, record flooding has been reported in 17 locations and could last a week, according to officials.

At its highest point, the Missouri River was expected to crest at 47.5 feet (14.5 meters), beating its 2011 record by more than one foot.

"Comparisons to 2011 were inevitable," the NWS office in Iowa tweeted, "but these floods have resulted in many more rescues and widespread damage in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa."

Failing levees were blamed for flooding in numerous communities -- damaging homes and businesses.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains federal levee systems, said a majority were compromised along an approximately 100-mile portion of the Missouri River in southeast Nebraska.

- Military base under water -

Hundreds of people were rescued by the Nebraska National Guard and emergency workers, officials said, while the American Red Cross set up two dozen shelters in the state.

Fremont, a city of more than 25,000, was surrounded by floodwaters over the weekend and cut off from aid.

It finally received food and other emergency supplies Sunday after crews managed to clear debris from a road, officials said.

Fifty-four Nebraska cities issued emergency declarations, as did four Native American tribal areas.

Three dozen Iowa counties were under states of emergency.

Roads were closed throughout Wisconsin and more than 200 people were evacuated, according to officials.

A third of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska was overcome with floodwater, and was not expected to be dry again until Thursday.

"It's important to understand that this is going to take weeks and months to recover so this will be a prolonged effort," one of the base's leaders, Kevin Humphrey, said in a statement.

Three people were reported killed.

A Nebraska farmer died Thursday, during the height of the storm, trying to rescue a motorist stranded by floodwaters, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

On the same day, 80-year-old Betty Hamernik died after being trapped by floodwaters in her home in rural Columbus, Nebraska, according to the newspaper.

Aleido Rojas Galan, 55, was killed Friday in Iowa when his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters, TV station KETV said.