Wednesday August 31, 2022

Biden declares emergency over Mississippi water crisis

Biden declares emergency over Mississippi water crisis

A customer carries out a couple of cases of drinking water in north Jackson, Mississippi, on Tuesday. AP

US President Joe Biden's administration approved an emergency declaration over a water crisis in the State of Mississippi and ordered Federal assistance late on Tuesday to supplement the state's response.

"Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding for a period of 90 days," the White House said in a statement late on Tuesday.


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The Biden administration also authorized the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the state, the White House said.

Mississippi activated its National Guard on Tuesday to help distribute water to tens of thousands of Jackson residents after a long-troubled treatment plant broke down, leaving most of the state capital without safe running water, possibly for days.

Biden declares emergency over Mississippi water crisis
Derek Emerson speaks about the challenges he and many restaurants face daily in Jackson, Mississippi. AP

Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency for Jackson and surrounding communities, warning the area's 180,000 people to avoid drinking tap water. He also called up the state National Guard to assist in efforts to bring relief to the city, which was battered by record rainfall and flooding over the weekend.

Tankers distributed non-potable water and bottled drinking water was distributed at several sites, the city said.

The state trucked in 10 tractor-trailers of water on Tuesday and was expecting another 108 trucks in the coming days, state emergency management director Stephen McCraney told reporters.

Supermarket shelves were stripped of bottled water, and police in a cruiser alerted people when supplies ran out at one distribution site in a retail parking lot. Volunteers apologized to people when they had no more water to give, urging them to return on Wednesday starting at 5am.

"It's a hurtful feeling when you don't have any water, especially when you've got newborn babies," Monica Lashay Bass, a mother of three, said from her car after queuing up for her allotment of bottled water.

Biden declares emergency over Mississippi water crisis
Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba speaks during a news conference in Jackson on Tuesday. AP

At a news conference, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba on Tuesday welcomed the state aid but his comments further exposed a rift between the Republican state officials and the Democratic administration of a city that is more than 80% African-American.

The governor has alleged the water treatment plant suffered from years of city mismanagement, while the mayor accused the state of being absent from efforts to maintain and update the plant.

"We've been going it alone for the better part of two years," Lumumba said. "And now we are excited to finally welcome the state to the table and all the valuable resources that they bring."

Reuters

 

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