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Page last updated at 14:08 GMT, Sunday, 29 March 2009 15:08 UK

US school swamped by flood river

A flooded house in the floodwaters of the Red River in Fargo, North Dakota, on 28 March 2009
The Red River has swollen to its highest levels for 112 years

Record-breaking flood waters in the US state of North Dakota have breached a dike at a school, swamping the campus.

Officials warn the Red River in the city of Fargo will stay at danger level for days, despite peaking on Friday and continuing to recede.

Officials say up to 30,000 people could be homeless if defences fail in Fargo, and in Moorhead on the opposite bank.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned up to 100,000 people may need to be evacuated in the area.

Thousands of people have already fled their homes as the Red River swelled to its highest level for 112 years, sending water rising to second-floor level in some homes.

Boat rescues

President Barack Obama declared parts of Minnesota and the entire state of North Dakota a federal disaster zone earlier this week.

Lieutenant Pat Claus says that the Red River has peaked

The principal of the flooded Oak Grove Lutheran School, Morgan Forness, said a permanent flood wall panel at the campus had collapsed in the early hours of Sunday.

The National Guard has joined the scramble to repair damage to the flooded school.

Emergency crews in boats had to rescue about 150 people from their homes in Minnesota, where about a fifth of households in Moorhead have been urged to leave.

The Red River, which crested at midnight on Friday at 40.82ft (12.4m), had dropped to 40.17ft (12.2m) by early Sunday - still more than 22ft (6.7m) above flood level.

Sandbagging efforts have resumed in Fargo, where volunteers have already filled more than 2.5 million bags to build a series of dikes.

High-tech Predator drone aircraft have been deployed to monitor the floodwaters.

Officials are appealing for volunteers to help some 1,850 national guards inspect at least 35 miles (56 km) of levees around Fargo.

Two people have died of heart attacks during efforts to contain flooding, according to the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.

Mr Obama on Saturday praised the volunteers who "braved freezing temperatures, gusting winds, and falling snow to build levees along the river's banks".

The BBC's Jon Donnison in Washington says that while the flooding is nowhere near as bad as that in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mr Obama is keen to avoid being seen as slow-footed in his response, as the Bush administration was four years ago.

Experts say the huge rise in the river's levels was caused by an unusually cold winter, followed by a very quick thaw and heavy rain.

Map of North Dakota and surrounding region


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SEE ALSO
US flood river 'may have peaked'
28 Mar 09 |  Americas
Eyewitness: Flooding in Fargo
28 Mar 09 |  Americas
In pictures: Midwest river floods
28 Mar 09 |  In Pictures
Floods cause havoc in US Midwest
25 Mar 09 |  Americas
Thousands threatened by US floods
08 Jan 09 |  Americas
Flood turmoil in US Midwest
15 Jun 08 |  Americas

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