CHARLESTON, Mo. (AP) __ Southeast Missouri farmers whose land is underwater because of last week’s levee breach are about to get their first look at the damage.

Mississippi County Sheriff Keith Moore told about 60 people at a special meeting late last week that they can access the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway on Monday. The access from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. will be under strict supervision.  Nobody younger than 16 will be allowed onto the floodway and life boats will be required.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew holes in the levees May 2 to relieve pressure on communities in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, most notably the Illinois community of Cairo. The action flooded more than 130,000 acres of farmland in Mississippi and New Madrid counties.

Meantime, state officials will be holding community meetings this week in southeast Missouri to inform residents and businesses affected by floods about state services they could receive. Officials from a dozen state agencies are to be on hand. People will be able to apply for unemployment  benefits and learn about issues like aid for career training, food and temporary housing.

Officials from county and federal agencies also will be present. Community meetings are planned Tuesday morning at Poplar Bluff High School, Tuesday afternoon at the Sikeston fifth-and-sixth grade school, Wednesday morning at  Charleston High School, Wednesday afternoon at New Madrid Central High School and Wednesday evening at Caruthersville Middle School.

(Copyright Associated Press)


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