Residents in parts of the U.S. Midwest are packing sandbags and shoring up levees in a desperate attempt to save their homes and businesses from the region's worst flooding in decades.
At least 20 people have been killed and hundreds of homes and businesses have been overtaken by water in Missouri and Illinois, after a massive storm system dumped as much as 30 centimeters of rain in some areas.
Authorities said at least nine federal levees already been topped by water, mostly in sparsely populated areas. Up to a dozen more, some in larger cities, could be overtaken by the time floodwaters are expected to peak by Friday.
Dramatic images showed muddy water reaching nearly to the rooftops of many homes and businesses. Dozens of residents have had to be rescued, including one man who was saved along with his dog by firefighters on a boat.
State of emergency
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and deployed the state's National Guard reserve soldiers to assist with security and evacuations in the worst affected areas.
Nixon spoke Wednesday with President Barack Obama, who promised federal assistance with the rescue and cleanup efforts if needed.
South of St. Louis, crews frantically packed sandbags and pumped out water in an effort to keep Interstate 55, a major thoroughfare, open. Portions of hundreds of other roads have already been closed across the state.
The water are not expected to recede in some areas for several days, and concerns could soon shift from flooding to ice, since temperatures are expected to dip below freezing.