Southern US communities brace for massive flooding
U.S. authorities are close to opening a massive spillway in the southern state of Louisiana in an effort to protect the cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans from massive Mississippi River flooding.
At the same time, the Army Corps of Engineers says opening the Morganza Spillway will affect 2,500 people and flood 1.2 million hectares of farm and rural property.
Flood of the century
Some officials are calling the rising waters the "flood of the century." There already has been vast upstream damage to homes, crops and businesses. The U.S. insurance industry says that natural disasters in the U.S. this spring, including the flooding and last month's devastating tornadoes, have already caused $5 billion in damages.
As the waters of the Mississippi River continue to rise on their eventual flow to the Gulf of Mexico, officials say ponds for catfish farming in the state of Mississippi could be inundated, endangering a $200 million-a-year business. Cotton crops are also at risk.
U.S. President Barack Obama is set to visit on Monday Tennessee's largest city, Memphis, where the river crested at near record levels earlier this week. He plans to give a graduation speech at a high school and also meet with victims of the flooding and officials coping with the clean-up efforts.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says his state will do everything it can to protect people and property in the flood zone.
For the Army Corps, the decision on whether to open the Morganza Spillway is one of choosing which part of the state will flood - the heavily populated cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, or the rich farmlands elsewhere in the state. The Morganza Spillway, a channel that can divert Mississippi water to another river system, has been used only once before, in 1973.
New Orleans is still recovering from devastation it sustained from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many sections of the city have not been rebuilt, and thousands of its residents who left have not returned.
The Red Cross says it has ample shelters to accommodate residents displaced by the flooding. They could be out of their homes for several weeks until the water recedes.VOANews