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Thousands in California town urged to evacuate over flood fears from overflowing dam

13 February 2017

Thousands of people in a northern California town have been asked to evacuate over fears of uncontrolled release of flood water from a failing spillway.

The California Department of Water Resources said last afternoon, the emergency spillway of the Oroville Dam in Northern California could fail within an hour unleashing uncontrolled flood waters from Lake Oroville.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said during a news conference last night that the situation left no choice but to order the evacuation.

''I didn't have the luxury of waiting to see if all was OK. We need to get people moving quickly and to save lives in case the worst case came to fruition,'' Honea said.

''This is a very dynamic situation. This is a situation that could change very, very rapidly,'' he said.

''We recognize that this has caused a significant problem with traffic, in terms of exiting the area.''

Officials earlier said that the dam was structurally sound and there was no threat to the public.

The office of the Butte County Sheriff advised residents of Oroville, a town of 16,000 people to head north toward Chico, and other cities should follow orders from their local law enforcement agencies.

In a post on its Facebook page, the Butte County Sheriff's Department ordered an ''immediate evacuation from the low levels of Oroville and areas downstream.''

According to the police a ''hazardous situation is developing'' as the Oroville Dam auxiliary spillway was in danger of failing, resulting in an ''uncontrolled  release of flood waters from Lake Oroville.''

The emergency spillway had been pressed into service by the authorities to relieve pressure from the dam's regular spillway, which developed a giant crater last week, Redding (California) Record Searchlight reported.

That crater had been growing steadily, so the state started using the emergency spillway, but that also been compromised.

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