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Floods in National Park Prompt Emergency Evacuations

By Steve Quinn

JUNEAU Alaska (Reuters) - More than 100 tourists and workers have been airlifted out of a private lodge in Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve after floods washed out portions of a road and left them stranded, a National Park Service spokeswoman said on Friday.

The group was evacuated late on Thursday by four fixed-wing airplanes and two helicopters after rainfall on Wednesday and Thursday morning caused two nearby shallow creeks to swell, said park spokeswoman Kris Fister.

The creeks turned into a "confluence of raging bodies of water," taking debris and chunks of road with them, Fister said, adding that the evacuations were aided by Alaska's late-setting summer sun.

"It allowed us to be working much later in the evening, no question," Fister said of the four-hour effort. "We were fortunate with that, and we were fortunate that the weather was good all night."

About 8 miles away, four mountaineers who traversed the park's Mt. McKinley, North America's tallest peak at 20,320 feet, also needed to be airlifted to safety, a park statement said.

They encountered high water while trying to cross the McKinley River, often difficult to navigate because of rain and glacier melt. They were also out of food, the release said.

 

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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