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Mississippi Hits Record Flood Crest After Rain

A SANDBAGGED levee crumbled along a mile-long stretch of the River Des Peres yesterday and sent torrents of floodwaters into south St. Louis as the Mississippi River bulged to a record crest and heavy rains doused the area.

Workers were trying to repair one breach when the sandbags atop the levee gave way on either side of them Tuesday, authorities said.

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Troops were using Humvees and 2 1/2-ton troop transport trucks to evacuate people who had stayed in the flooded area despite warnings to leave.

Flooding since the start of June has ravaged 10 Midwestern states, causing at least 31 deaths and $10 billion in damage, leaving 16,000 square miles of prime farmland underwater and damaging more than 22,000 homes.

It has also forced bridge, road, and rail closures, disrupting cargo shipments from coast to coast.

Elsewhere in the Midwest:

* In Des Moines, Iowa, residents hoped to start turning on faucets and flushing toilets in parts of the city yesterday. Some 250,000 people have been without tap water since a river overran the city water plant 10 days ago.

* Thunderstorms raised the danger of new floods in parts of Kansas and Nebraska. More than 5,000 people were urged to evacuate in and near Manhattan, Kan., and Prairie Dog Creek in Colby spilled over its banks.

* Rain in much of Iowa and parts of Missouri made it harder for people to dry out their homes and scrub away the reeking muck left behind by the floods.

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* Officials in New Orleans got so many calls from people asking whether Louisiana would be flooded that they held a news conference to assure everyone there's no danger because the lower Mississippi is much wider and deeper than what lies to the north.

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