Bush Visits Flood Areas, Promises Relief

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WASHINGTON - Residents in Missouri and Illinois are in a race against time. They're trying to save their communities from the swollen banks of the raging Mississippi River.

President Bush took a helicopter tour of the region today, assuring the victims they have federal support.

"I know a lot of farmers and cattlemen are hurting right now," he said at an emergency center in Cedar Rapids. "It's a tough time."

Bush said the nation "will help" Midwest residents rebuild. So far, FEMA has provided more than 3.3 million liters of water and 200,000 ready-to-eat meals.

John McCain also got a first-hand look at the flooding Thursday and opponent Sen. Barack Obama recently helped flood victims fill sandbags in Illinois.

Pictures of Devastation

The scene is repeated all along the Mississippi - road signs barely visible, flooded farm fields, and homes that were once the family's safe haven, now submerged under muddy waters.

And still the risk of more flooding threatens cities and towns downstream.

"I'm stressed about this, I mean this is all my life and I have and you know we don't want to lose it," said one flood survivor.

The President is asking congress for $2 billion in aid.

Before leaving Washington to tour the damage, he pledged continued federal help.

"We're concerned about people who lost their homes, who lost their businesses. We're in constant contact with people on the ground," he said.

Record Flooding

Forecasters are predicting near-record crests.

In St. Louis, the Mississippi River has swallowed much of the landing and is already at the base of the gateway arch.

Tomorrow, in Quincy, Illinois the river is expected to crest at 32 feet. Efforts of the city's volunteers seem to be paying off for now.

"We've had over 6,000 volunteers since Friday, probably put out about a million and a quarter sandbags so far," Illinois Mayor John Spring said.

Lending a Hand - from the Least to the Greatest

Men, women and children are all pitching in the frantic fight to keep their communities dry.

One little 9-year-old said, "I'm helping the people here so the flood won't top the levee and people can lose their house."

After touring parts of the swollen river, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich acknowledged the reality that not all the levees will hold.

"There's gonna be breaches along the way. Our challenge is to cut our losses and mitigate the damage as much as we can in advance of what's coming," the governor said.

Across parts of Iowa - where the floods have caused more than a billion dollars in damage - some residents are returning to what's left of their homes.

"A lot of the houses will have to be destroyed because of the water damage," said Master Sgt. Lori Plantage of the Army National Guard.

"The stuff it will be replaced in no time. But not my house," one flood victim said.

FEMA Feeling the Strain

Meanwhile, FEMA has provided some 13 million sandbags in the effort to protect cities against the floods in the Midwest. But there's only so much they can do.

The Army Corps of Engineers says more than 20 levees have already overflowed and they expect up to 30 more will give way soon

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CBN News
John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Washington Correspondent

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