Hundreds Rescued In Ariz. After Dam Bursts

In this photo a National Park Service employee is lowered down to a point overlooking the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River where one of 16 stranded rafters is waiting to be short hauled out.
Days of heavy rains around the Grand Canyon caused an earthen dam to fail Sunday and created flooding that forced helicopters to pluck hundreds of residents and campers and deliver them to safety. No injuries were immediately reported.

The failure of the Redlands Dam caused some flooding in Supai, a village on a canyon floor where about 400 members of the Havasupai Native American tribe live, said Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge. The current floods and potential for more required the evacuations, she said.

No structures were damaged after the dam failed about 45 miles upstream from Supai, but some hiking trails and footbridges were washed out, she said.

Even before the rain-swollen dam burst, heavy rainfall since Friday totaling as much as 8 inches caused flooding and problems in the area. Sixteen people in a boating party were stranded on a ledge at the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River on Saturday night after flood waters carried their rafts away, Oltrogge said.

The boaters were found uninjured and were being rescued from the canyon, whose floor is unreachable in many places except by helicopter.

Rescuers were trying to find visitors staying at the Supai Campground and escort them to safety, Oltrogge said.

Evacuees were being flown to a parking area 8 miles from Supai and bused to a Red Cross shelter in Peach Springs, about 60 miles southwest of Supai, the spokeswoman said.

A flash flood warning was in effect for the area until the early evening. The area received 3 to 6 inches of rain Friday and Saturday and about 2 more inches on Sunday, said Daryl Onton, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Flagstaff, Arizona.

"That's all it took - just a few days of very heavy thunderstorms," he said.

Supai is on Havasu and Cataract creeks, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Grand Canyon Village, a popular tourist area on the south rim of the canyon. Havasu Creek feeds the Colorado, which runs the length of the canyon.

The flooding came on a weekend during the busy summer tourist season, when thousands of visitors a day flock to the canyon for spectacular views, hikes or to raft its whitewater.

The Grand Canyon has been the traditional home of the Havasupai for centuries.