Campers airlifted out of flooded canyon

August 18, 2008 8:15:25 AM PDT
A rain-soaked earthen dam near the Grand Canyon broke on Sunday, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of residents from a flooded village in a downstream Indian reservation, a National Park Service spokeswoman said.Five helicopters from the Arizona National Guard and the state public safety department ferried some evacuees, including campers and river-runners, to higher ground after floodwaters cascaded into the remote Native American town of Supai at the bottom of a canyon, spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge said.

As of Sunday evening, 75 people had been airlifted to safety and another 350 were waiting to be flown out as darkness approached, Oltrogge said, adding some evacuees may be forced to spend the night on higher ground near the flood zone.

"It sounds like all the residents and campers have been accounted for," she told Reuters. No injuries were reported.

Supai is home to about 400 members of the Havasupai tribe, and is located about 75 miles west of the Grand Canyon Village, which is on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The town is accessible only by horse or foot along an 8-mile trail or by helicopter.

The dam broke at about 6 a.m., following a day of heavy rains that weakened the earthen structure, which sits about 20 miles east of Supai in a side gorge of the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular U.S. tourist attractions, drawing an estimated 5 million visitors a year.

More rain was possible in the area, Oltrogge said.

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