Health fears over toxic floodwaters as death toll rises to five and 130,000 people are forced to evacuate across three states
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett warned of the dangers of coming into contact with raw sewage.
He said: ‘We face a public health emergency because sewage treatment plants are underwater and no longer working.
‘Flood water is toxic and polluted. If you don’t have to be in it, keep out.’
‘We’re worried about people even getting near the water.’
He spoke as relentless rain caused catastrophic flooding from Maryland to New England, killing at least five people and forcing the evacuation of more than 130,000 in three states.
Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee swamped homes and dropped up to a foot of rain outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which declared a state of emergency.
The National Weather Service issued large number of flood warnings for parts of Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
Flood watches were also in effect in other areas from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C.
In Pennsylvania, the rising waters of the Susquehanna River forced the evacuation of 65,000 people from Wilkes-Barre and another 35,000 from surrounding counties, said Stephen Urban, commissioner of Luzerne County.
Eight feet of water covered normally picturesque river towns like Tunkhannock and Shickshinny, and residents who disregarded the evacuation rode out the flood in their bedrooms and attics. Others flocked to refuge centers.
The typically meandering river was turned into a roiling toxic mess after washing out 10 sewage processing plants, Mr Corbett said.
The Susquehanna crested at Wilkes-Barre at 38.83 feet at 9.35pm ET Thursday, about two feet lower than forecast and just below the levees, according to the Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center in State College.
At least five people were killed in Pennsylvania and Virginia in flood-related incidents.
In Hershey, Pennsylvania, a homeowner trying to bail water out of his flooded basement died with a wall collapsed.
In Lancaster County, a 62-year-old woman in her car was caught in flood waters, and a man was swept away as he tried to walk through rushing water up to 18 inches deep, authorities said.
In Virginia’s Fairfax County, flash floods swept away two people, a 12-year-old boy in his family’s backyard and a man in his sixties who was outside his car, said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for Fairfax County Police.
‘The water rose so quickly and so abruptly. It was terrifying,’ Caldwell said.
At Hersheypark’s ZooAmerica in Pennsylvania, two bison were shot to spare them from drowning in rapidly rising floodwaters.
Officials at the zoo defended the decision as the most humane choice.
The one-ton animals were trapped in their pen as the waters surged and zookeepers could not evacuate them.
‘Unfortunately, no one could anticipate a weather event that went from inches of rain to feet of flooding in a matter of a few short minutes,’ the zoo said in its statement.
‘Faced with the prospect of watching the extended suffering of the bison and their eventual death due to drowning, the zoo staff chose the most humane path possible and euthanized the bison.’
Rivers and creeks still swollen by Hurricane Irene two weeks ago threatened cities and towns throughout Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, and were poised to smash records.
‘It’s like Irene without the wind,’ meteorologist Elliot Abrams on Accuweather.com said of torrential rains predicted to continue through Thursday night.
To the north, a dozen Vermont towns flooded by Hurricane Irene were still on boil-water orders 12 days later, though officials reported no waterborne illness.
Similar precautions have been taken throughout other storm-damaged states. – DailyMail
As reported by this ministry 5/10/11: The coming epidemics from tainted water will begin to spread shortly. Hospitals will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people that are infected. Boiling water is still the best defense against water born diseases, and should also be boiled to bathe with. People living in flooded areas should follow this precaution.
The animal kingdom will also suffer from the effects. Those with pets in the infected areas should boil their drinking water also. Pets that are permitted free range will become infected. Livestock will also be at risk from the new strains of bacteria that are in the toxic brew if permitted to drink the tainted water.