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Fescuers building bridge to reach 70 stranded by flood

Associated Press

RUIDOSO, N.M. — Rescuers cleared debris and worked on building a temporary bridge Tuesday to get closer to about 70 people stranded for a third day by massive flooding.

The flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Dolly has damaged about 200 homes, washed out 13 bridges and killed at least one person, authorities said. At least 600 residents and campers have been rescued since early Sunday, said Sherry Kamali, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Rain hampered the rescue efforts early Tuesday before the weather cleared up. But by the evening, more rain began to fall, delaying completion of the bridge until Wednesday, said Sherry Kamali, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Kamali said officials expected to get up to an inch of rain overnight. "One inch doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but in this area it is," she said.

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Despite the scattered showers, Ruidoso spokeswoman Darlene Hart said crews were able to make some progress.

About 17 campers were rescued Tuesday from Bonito Lake north of Ruidoso, some who were stranded by a flooded street near the river and others in the upper canyon area, which was cut off when a bridge went underwater, Ruidoso spokeswoman Darlene Hart said. Another 11 campers decided to stay in the area, Hart said.

"They’re working on the bridges. They’re working on the roads. They’re making what I would say is decent progress for the amount of devastation," she said.

Police have resolved up to five reports of missing people authorities received Sunday as families reconnected after the chaos subsided, Hart said. Sunday’s flood claimed the life of a 20-year-old man, whose body was found Monday.

Some streets remain closed due to flooding, Hart said. Local officials estimated the flood has caused up to $15 million in damage to bridges and roadways, though that figure could climb, Hart said.

Gov. Bill Richardson has declared Lincoln County a disaster area, freeing emergency state funding to help ensure the safety of residents, their properties, and public services.

Officials said many residents and vacationers won’t be able to return to their homes or cabins quickly.

"We’re still looking at weeks and months and maybe years to get things back to the way they were," Hart said.

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Some residents did return to their flood-damaged homes and started cleaning them Tuesday as Red Cross workers began assessing the damage, said Wanda Peacock, branch manager of Red Cross’ Roswell office.

"The people here have been very, very brave," she said. "This is humanity at it’s best. Everybody is helping everybody."

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