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‘Long, slow process’

Many still out of homes, much work left to do in Marseilles

MARSEILLES — Two weeks after a breached levee caused severe flooding and mass evacuations, Marseilles is beginning the slow process of recovery.

Most of those evacuated are still not able to return to their homes.

Kids just returned to school on Thursday.

And in the hardest hit areas, workers and volunteers are in the early stages of trying to recover from the damage caused by the flooding.

“Some on the fringes of town have been able to return to their homes,” Police Chief James Hovious said. “But in the hardest hit areas, there’s a lot of destruction.”

High water and strong currents collapsed foundations, moved homes and spread debris.

The flooding, Hovious said, was not limited to basements. It rose to seven feet and collected on the first floors of houses, destroying furniture, clothes and personal belongings.

Many of the evacuated — most of whom are staying with family and friends, according to Hovious — have returned to throw out those items.

Once personal property is removed, Hovious said, the second phase begins. That’s to remove the mud from everything.

Hovious said the next step will be to remove dry wall and insulation.

The destruction occurred April 18, when — during days of torrential rain and severe flooding across the state — barges broke away and crashed into a dam in the Illinois River.

Mayor Patricia Smith declared a state of emergency for the city as an estimated 1,000 residents of the town’s 5,100 were evacuated.

In the two weeks since, the city, local organizations and area residents have pulled together to amass donations and volunteers to aid in the recovery.

According to Hovious, help from the community has been helpful.

“The volunteer response has been incredible,” he said. “It’s been a lot of physical hours, and they continue to be of huge help.”

But, Hovious said, the city has a long way to go.

“It’s going to be a long, slow process,” Hovious said.

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