200 Campers Rescued as Flash Floods Strike at Grand Canyon Campground

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Rescue workers evacuated 200 tourists Thursday who were caught in flash flooding at a popular campground on tribal land near the Grand Canyon. The evacuations came after two rounds of flooding hit the Havasupai reservation, deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

This Thursday, July 12, 2018 photo released by Benji Xie shows flooding from a waterfall on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Ariz. Credit: Benji Xie Via AP

Tourist Benji Xie said people were swimming at the base of waterfalls when the flash flooding struck, sending them scrambling for higher ground:

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

Soon, water was sloshing up around people’s tents, prompting him and his friends to warn other campers to flee. Some people were stranded on islands that formed in the water, while others climbed trees, stood on benches or took shelter in caves, he said. Rather than panic, Xie said most of the campers were in a state of disbelief about what had happened. He said he would not hesitate to return.

Grand Canyon, flash floods
Flash flooding at the Grand Canyon. Credit: Inside Edition

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 and were given food and supplies.

Grand Canyon, flash floods
This Thursday photo released by Benji Xie shows a helicopter landing to rescue people from flooding on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Arizona.Credit: BENJI XIE / VIA AP

Tourism is the lifeblood of the tribe’s economy, with many residents making a living by working in the area’s lodge, cafe and small store, or packing camping gear onto the backs of mules headed up and down an eight-mile trail. Spots in the campground sell out quickly every year. The canyon is accessible only by foot, helicopter or mule ride, making it crucial to have as much of a heads-up as possible when floods are approaching so people can seek higher ground.

The canyon will be closed to tourists more than a week as the damage is assessed.


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