Crews find all missing Grand Canyon hikers

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PHOENIX -- Rescue crews have located a handful of hikers who were missing after floods tore through a remote part of the Grand Canyon, authorities said Tuesday.

The 11 people from two families were tracked down in the canyon Monday, Coconino County Sheriff's Department spokesman Gerry Blair said. They were the last to be accounted for after creeks overflowing with runoff from severe thunderstorms washed away trails during the weekend, stranding dozens of tourists.

"We have met them, and they're OK," Blair said.

Authorities were receiving more calls from people who believe their loved ones might still be in the canyon, Blair said. But everyone who followed the rules and signed in at the bottom of the trail into the remote area had been evacuated.

"The only other possibility that exists is someone who went down there who didn't sign up," Blair said.

Helicopters ferried 426 people out of the canyon from Supai, an American Indian village near most of the flooding. Many of the stranded tourists made their way to Supai before catching a helicopter ride to the rim.

Thunderstorms dumped as much as 8 inches of rain on the region Friday through Sunday. The storms sent a rush of water through parts of the canyon, uprooting trees and washing out trails and footbridges.

Bureau of Indian Affairs officials said the village appears to have sustained only minor damage from the storms. The area will stay closed to tourists, but residents who belong to the Havasupai tribe are now being allowed to return.

The agency plans to put the residents on helicopters and fly them down the canyon, bypassing washed-out trails.

Meanwhile, rescue crews checked the hiking trails and surrounding gorges by helicopter and foot again, and crews will do a more comprehensive ground search when the floodwaters recede in a few days, Blair said.

The Havasupai tribe is one of the smaller Indian communities in Arizona, with about 679 members, according to Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates from 2003, the latest statistics available.

Supai sits in a region popular with hikers and river runners, with towering blue-green waterfalls. About 400 people live there year round.

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