Flash flood sends tourists to high ground near Grand Canyon

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A rainbow shines over a waterfall on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Arizona amid flooding that has forced the evacuation of about 200 tourists on July 11, 2018. (Benji Xie via AP)
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Flooding from a waterfall has forced the evacuation of about 200 tourists on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Arizona, US, on July 11, 2018. (Benji Xie via AP)
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Flooding from a waterfall has forced the evacuation of about 200 tourists on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Arizona, US, on July 11, 2018. (Benji Xie via AP)
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A helicopter lands to rescue people from flooding on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Arizona, US. (Benji Xie via AP)
Updated 13 July 2018
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Flash flood sends tourists to high ground near Grand Canyon

  • Rescue workers evacuated most of the 200 tourists after two rounds of flooding hit the Havasupai reservation, deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon.
  • During monsoon season, rain can fall heavy and fast. Flood waters often rush unexpectedly through normally dry canyons and washes, sometimes with tragic consequences.

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona: Torrents of water rushed Thursday through an Arizona canyon famous for its towering blue-green waterfalls, sending tourists scrambling to benches, trees and caves as they sought higher ground.
Rescue workers evacuated most of the 200 tourists after two rounds of flooding hit the Havasupai reservation, deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon.
All the tourists were accounted for and no one was seriously injured when heavy rain began falling Wednesday evening and before dawn Thursday, swelling a shallow creek that runs through a reservation campground, said tribal spokeswoman Abbie Fink.
Tourist Benji Xie said people were swimming at the base of waterfalls when the flash flooding struck. He and his friends ran up to a bathroom with other campers to wait out the rain.
“The sky opened up. Winds started blowing, sand was blowing everywhere and rain was coming down in sheets,” he told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Water sloshed up around people’s tents, and Xie said he his friends warned other campers to flee. Some were stranded on islands that formed in the water, while others climbed trees, stood on benches or took shelter in caves, he said.
The tribe used ATVs, rope and manpower to get dozens of tourists from the campground below the village of Supai to a school, where they spent the night Wednesday and were given food and supplies.
A single helicopter flew about five tourists at a time out of the village to a parking lot at the head of an eight-mile trail to Supai, Fink said. Several were still waiting their turn early Thursday evening, she said.
Officials will start assessing the damage Friday to determine when it’s safe for tourists to return. Fink said the reservation will be closed to visitors for at least a week.
Posts on social media showed muddy water roaring through the canyon that is prone to flooding.
During monsoon season, rain can fall heavy and fast. Flood waters often rush unexpectedly through normally dry canyons and washes, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Ten members of an Arizona family were killed last July when a torrent of rain water rushed through a swimming hole in a canyon northeast of Phoenix. In another incident, seven people died at Utah’s Zion National Park in September 2015 when they were trapped in a flash flood while hiking at a popular slot canyon.
On Thursday, rather than panicking, Xie said most of the campers were in a state of disbelief about what had happened. Still, he said he would not hesitate to return to the pristine waterfalls.
Tourism is the lifeblood of the tribe’s economy, with many residents making a living by working in the area’s lodge, cafe and small store, or packing camping gear onto the backs of mules headed up and down an eight-mile trail. Spots in the campground sell out quickly every year.
The canyon is accessible only by foot, helicopter or mule ride, making it crucial to have as much of a heads-up as possible when floods are approaching so people can seek higher ground.
Brian Klimowski of the National Weather Service in Flagstaff said the agency contacted the tribe around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday with a flood advisory for the area.
The hard rain hit about 45 minutes later and a stream gauge noted a four-foot rise in Havasu Creek, he said. Another gauge downstream of the Colorado River showed an eight-foot rise in water levels, he said. The creek rose again at 2 a.m. Thursday.
In both cases, water receded within two hours, he said.
“That’s a steep-walled canyon with a relatively flat bottom on it,” he said. “When the water rises, it can engulf a significant part of the canyon area, and that’s what happened down in the campground.”
 


El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

Evelyn Hernandez (C) is surrounded by activists after being released from the women's Readaptation Center, in Ilopango, El Salvador, on February 9, 2019, where she was serving a 30-year-sentence for aggravated homicide after her baby died at birth. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 47 sec ago
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El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

  • Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR: A Salvadoran court on Friday freed Evelyn Hernandez, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after she gave birth to a stillborn baby at home.
After serving 33 months for aggravated homicide, 20-year-old Hernandez smiled as she was reunited with her parents and a brother in the capital San Salvador.
The court in Cojutepeque, east of the capital, ruled that she will be retried but while living at home. A hearing has been set for April 4, with a new judge, her lawyer Angelica Rivas said.
El Salvador has an extremely strict abortion ban. Hernandez gave birth in the makeshift bathroom of her home in the central Cuscatlan region. She was 18 years old and eight months pregnant.
She said her son was stillborn but was convicted of murdering him, abortion rights group ACDATEE said.
ACDATEE cited a pathologist’s report which it said indicated the baby had choked to death while still in the womb.
Prosecutors argued Hernandez was culpable for not having sought prenatal care, ACDATEE said.
The group said Hernandez had not known she was pregnant and gave birth on the toilet after feeling abdominal pains. She got pregnant as the result of a rape, which she did not report out of fear because her family had been threatened.
Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador. Campaigners say some have been jailed after suffering miscarriages.
The country’s abortion law made international headlines in 2013 when a sick woman was forbidden from aborting a fetus which developed without a brain.
Under a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Salvadoran state eventually authorized her to undergo a cesarean section. The baby died shortly after the procedure.