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Tourists scurry in flash flood

Torrents of water rushed Thursday through an Arizona canyon famous for its towering blue-green waterfalls, sending tourists scrambling to benches, trees and caves as they sought higher ground.

Rescue workers evacuated most of the 200 tourists after two rounds of flooding hit the Havasupai reservation, deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon.

All the tourists were accounted for and no one was seriously injured when heavy rain began falling Wednesday evening and before dawn Thursday, swelling a shallow creek that runs through a reservation campground, said tribal spokeswoman Abbie Fink.

Tourist Benji Xie said people were swimming at the base of waterfalls when the flash flooding struck. He and his friends ran up to a bathroom with other campers to wait out the rain.

"The sky opened up. Winds started blowing, sand was blowing everywhere and rain was coming down in sheets," he told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Water sloshed up around people's tents, and Xie said he his friends warned other campers to flee. Some were stranded on islands that formed in the water, while others climbed trees, stood on benches or took shelter in caves, he said.

The tribe used ATVs, rope and manpower to get dozens of tourists from the campground below the village of Supai to a school, where they spent the night Wednesday and were given food and supplies.

A single helicopter flew about five tourists at a time out of the village to a parking lot at the head of an eight-mile trail to Supai, Fink said. Several were still waiting their turn early Thursday evening, she said.

Officials will start assessing the damage Friday to determine when it's safe for tourists to return. Fink said the reservation will be closed to visitors for at least a week.

Measuring stations showed the water rose as much as eight feet in some places.



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