PICS: Mass evacuation in California as dam weakened by rain

2017-02-13 19:00
The damaged spillway with eroded hillside in Oroville, California. Water will continue to flow over an emergency spillway at the US's tallest dam for another day or so, officials said. (William Croyle, California Department of Water Resources via AP)

The damaged spillway with eroded hillside in Oroville, California. Water will continue to flow over an emergency spillway at the US's tallest dam for another day or so, officials said. (William Croyle, California Department of Water Resources via AP)

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San Francisco - Almost 200 000 people were under evacuation orders on Monday after damage to the auxiliary spillway of a dam in northern California raised fears the structure could fail and unleash torrential waters.

The reservoir of the Oroville Dam, located 120 kilometres north of the state capital Sacramento, had been completely full after several weeks of heavy rain.

The 210m long dam itself was not in danger of collapse, according to officials, but the emergency spillway was causing major concern due to erosion damage on its concrete top, the Sacramento Bee newspaper said.

Authorities were releasing 2 830 cubic meters of water per second from the main spillway, which dropped the reservoir on Sunday to a level where there was no more flow into the auxiliary spillway, the Bee cited Department of Water Resources spokesman Doug Carlson as saying.

About 188 000 people in downstream communities had been ordered to flee on Sunday afternoon.

"Yes, an evacuation has been ordered," the Yuba County Office of Emergency Services said in a Facebook post.

"All Yuba County on the valley floor. The auxiliary spillway is close to failing... Take only routes to the east, south, or west. DO NOT TRAVEL NORTH TOWARD OROVILLE!!!!!"

Governor Jerry Brown issued an emergency order to deploy resources to the affected area.

"I've been in close contact with emergency personnel managing the situation in Oroville throughout the weekend. It's clear the circumstances are complex and rapidly changing," he said in a statement.

"The state is directing all necessary personnel and resources to deal with this very serious situation."


Lake water flows over the emergency spillway, bottom left, at Lake Oroville for the first time in the nearly 50-year history of the Oroville Dam. (Randy Pench, The Sacramento Bee via AP)

 

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