WASHINGTON -- As many as 30 more levees may overflow along the Mississippi River from Burlington, Iowa, down to St. Louis, the government said Wednesday.
Twenty levees already have been topped by floodwaters this week, the Army Corps of Engineers said. Twenty to 30 other levees could overflow if sandbagging efforts fail to raise the height of the structures.
The levees in danger protect rural, industrial and agricultural areas, not heavily populated towns. The levees protecting large towns are not as at risk of overflowing, officials said.
Record-breaking storms and flooding across six states this month are still forcing thousands of people to evacuate. Since June 6, there have been 24 deaths and 148 injuries because of the storms and flooding, according to federal briefing documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said two levees in Illinois have broken and a dam in Morgan County, Ind., has been significantly damaged.
FEMA administrator R. David Paulison said that as of Wednesday afternoon, officials shifted concern to flooding between St. Louis and the Quad Cities, which include Bettendorf and Davenport in Iowa and Moline and Rock Island in Illinois. In a phone call with reporters, Paulison said he expects the lower part of the Mississippi will absorb the increased water flow without much impact. FEMA officials anticipate helping with major debris removal operations, oil and hazardous material cleanup, and health and medical support.
Paulison said the Environmental Protection Agency has been asked to test the water and air quality. FEMA also is organizing national housing task forces in the affected states. No states have requested FEMA trailers as of Wednesday.
In the flooded regions, some food processing plants were expected to be shut down, and officials expected maritime transportation to be closed for at least a week.
The federal government has provided more than 3 million quarts of water, 150 generators, more than 213,000 meals, 13 million sandbags and 4,000 rolls of plastic sheeting, according to FEMA and Army Corps tallies.
More than 28,000 people have registered for FEMA disaster assistance. Paulison said only 9 percent of them have flood insurance. Those without flood insurance are limited in what federal assistance they can receive.