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Flooding ravages NM town

Over 400 homes were damaged by flooding in the New Mexico town of Carlsbad.


"Neighbors really pulled together."

—Amy Powers

Over 400 homes were damaged by flooding in and around the New Mexico town of Carlsbad.

More than 10 inches of rain in three days caused the Pecos River to flood its banks over the weekend. Many residents returned home to find their belongings soaked and covered with mud. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson declared the city and county disaster areas Monday, clearing the way for more relief funds. Yesterday he toured the area to see the damage for himself.

Carlsbad City Council Member Judi Waters said that during the flooding, some water had to be released from the dam on the Pecos River in order to save it from breaking. This caused flooding of the irrigation canals downstream, where more houses were affected in nearby communities. Many of those homeowners are without flood insurance.

Carlsbad, home to some 25,000 people, is about 70 miles from the Texas border.

Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Resource and Recovery Liaison (DRRL) Heriberto Martinez said he's been in contact with a local Presbyterian minister for updates. "I'm being told that from 300 to 500 homes were damaged -- and the majority have insurance," he said. "The ministerial alliance is helping, but there are still people in need."

He added that the local ministerial alliance is thrilled that the state government announced that for every one dollar donated by volunteer organization, they'll match it with three dollars.

Residents worked together during the rising waters Saturday night into Sunday morning. "Neighbors really pulled together," said Amy Powers, a member of Carlsbad's First United Methodist Church. Powers, whose home is right next to the river, said her neighbor saved her boat from going over the dam on Saturday night.

Powers in turn saved another neighbor's dogs from drowning by wading into the water to open their pen. "I've lived here for 14 years and I've never seen the water get that high or come up so quickly," she said.

Waters said she's seeing great teamwork as well, noting that the high school's cafeteria workers came in to fix meals for those who stayed in the school's gymnasium. "It's really heartwarming to see how people will bond during disaster," said Waters, who also serves as secretary for First United Methodist Church. She said volunteers went above and beyond, as some filled sandbags and others helped around the emergency shelter.

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