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Village evacuated after flooding

TUESDAY, AUG. 19, 2008

PHOENIX – More than 250 residents and tourists have evacuated an American Indian village in a remote, scenic offshoot of the Grand Canyon after weekend flooding that wrecked trails and nearly washed away some river rafters in the rugged gorge.

Helicopters on Monday ferried 85 people out of the Havasupai tribal village of Supai, about 2,300 feet below the canyon rim, said Gerry Blair, a spokesman for the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department. Another 170 people had been evacuated from Supai Canyon on Sunday.

Village residents asked for extra supplies Monday, but Blair said authorities weren’t sure yet what to deliver. It’s unclear how much Supai will need because many people are choosing to leave the village, and authorities don’t know how long it will take to reopen hiking trails to the public.

“There’s nobody down there in dire straits because they don’t have any food or water right now,” he said.

A year-round home to about 400 tribe members, Supai is extremely remote. It’s an 8-mile hike from the nearest parking lot, dropping down a winding canyon trail.

It’s the only U.S. community where the mail is delivered by mule. The area is popular with hikers for its towering blue-green waterfalls downstream from the village.

Gov. Janet Napolitano toured the flood damage and met with Havasupai leaders Monday. She said afterward that crews must restore the pack trail used to deliver mail, food and other supplies. Part of the trail is still underwater, she said.

Thunderstorms dumped 3 to 6 inches of rain Friday and Saturday in northern Arizona and about 2 inches more on Sunday. In Supai Canyon, the deluge was worsened by the breach of a small earthen dam upstream.


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