Evacuation throws lives into chaos

OROVILLE (California) • Tens of thousands of northern California residents remained in shelters yesterday, as engineers worked to shore up a crumbling overflow channel and drain the rain-swollen reservoir at the United States' tallest dam before new storms sweep in.

Evacuation orders for nearly 190,000 residents were in effect, as the risk to those in the Feather River Valley below Lake Oroville Dam was being reviewed, officials said.

"We're doing everything we can to get this dam in shape... It's very difficult," California Governor Jerry Brown said on Monday.

He has asked President Donald Trump to make an emergency declaration, which would open up federal assistance.

Residents were ordered from their homes on Sunday. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea called this a "critical and difficult decision" that he recognised would cause significant disruption. Officials said 250 law enforcement personnel would patrol the evacuated areas.

Ms April Torlone, 18, was at work at a chain store on Sunday evening when she received a flood emergency alert on her phone. She drove her family to her grandmother's house - a 65km trip that took six hours.

They drove past crowded petrol stations, stores running out of food and people camped in cars. Shelters, churches, schools, an air force base, individuals and Sikh temples have opened their doors to strangers.

Mr Nicholas Mertz, a hotel supervisor in Chico, 40km north of Oroville, said at 3pm on Sunday that the 184-room hotel was at just over half its maximum occupancy. Within hours, it had hit full capacity - with some rooms housing up to eight people.

REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Evacuation throws lives into chaos'. Print Edition | Subscribe