Midwest Flooding Not Over as Missouri Levee Breaks

June 27, 2008

A levee near Winfield, Missouri, that was holding back the flood waters of the Mississippi River broke early Friday morning, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The levee broke at its south end at 5:20 a.m. CDT (1020 GMT) despite sandbagging to increase its height.

Officials said the levee, which protects about 3,000 acres (1,215 hectares) of agricultural land along with a few dozen homes, had been reinforced over the past week.

It was the 36th levee to be overtopped in the past 10 days or so along the Mississippi as the river swelled after torrential rains further north.

“The levee simply sustained water levels higher than it was designed for and for a much longer period of time than anyone had hoped,” the Corps said in a statement.

“Water had already risen above the top of the levee as it was built and was on sandbags that were added to its top. The continuing saturation of the soil was the likely cause of this breakdown,” it said, saying it had no further details.

The Midwest storms and torrential rains have killed 24 persons since late May. More than 38,000 people have been displaced from their homes, mostly in Iowa where 83 of 99 counties have been declared disaster areas.

Fears that as much as 5 million acres (2 mln hectares) of corn and soybeans have been lost due to the flooding pushed corn and livestock prices to record highs.

On Thursday, Chicago Board of Trade corn for July 2009 delivery set another record high at $8.22 a bushel, more than double the 40-year average for corn prices. Corn is the main feed for meat animals, main source for ethanol fuel, and used in hundreds of other food and industrial products.

(Reporting by Lisa Shumaker, Writing by Peter Bohan; Editing by John Picinich)

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