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Levee blast aims to protect town

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US Army Corps of Engineers personnel inspect flooding in Cairo, Illinois (AP)

US Army Corps of Engineers personnel inspect flooding in Cairo, Illinois (AP)

US Army Corps of Engineers personnel inspect flooding in Cairo, Illinois (AP)

Officials in the US have blown up a large section of a Mississippi River levee in a desperate attempt to protect a town from rising floodwaters.

They said the move would help Cairo, Illinois, by diverting up to 4ft of water off the river. As of Monday night, river levels at Cairo were at historic highs, creating pressure on the floodwall protecting the town.

The blasts were likely to unleash a muddy torrent into empty farm fields.

Brief but bright orange flashes could be seen above the river as the explosions went off. The blasts lasted only about two seconds.

The darkness meant it was not immediately clear how fast the water was moving into the farmland.

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