President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration late Tuesday after massive flooding in Jackson, Mississippi, caused the city’s water system to fail.
The approval will allow Federal Emergency Management Agency resources to augment local and state officials in responding to the crisis. Nearly 170,000 residents in the Jackson area lack access to water.
On Tuesday, residents lined up for bottles of water as city pumps have failed to provide water to some residents. Even the residents who have little water pressure are urged not to drink tap water directly and to boil water before cooking or washing dishes and produce.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said that the state is bringing in pumps to help return water pressure. He said he was hopeful a new pump could be installed Wednesday morning.
“This is not a situation that’s gonna be solved immediately and it’s not gonna be solved overnight, but we’re gonna make, we’re gonna make decisions to make incremental progress as we navigate through this,” Reeves said.
Mayor Chokwe Lumumba told CNN that the city’s water system is an aging system.
“We have over three decades of deferred maintenance in our water treatment facility,” Lumumba said. “We have repeated challenges that take place time and time again, and so what we have been reverberating for more than two years is that it’s not a matter of if these systems will fail. It’s a matter of when these systems will fail.”
On Wednesday, the White House said that Biden discussed relief efforts with Lumumba.
Reeves previously declared a state of emergency as he said there is not enough water in Jackson to meet residents’ basic needs, such as taking a bath or fighting fires.
The flooding in Jackson began late last week. Officials said they did what they could to prevent the system from failing. The water level on the Pearl River in Jackson reached 35.4 feet Monday, nearly 7 feet above the flood stage. The water is expected to slowly recede this week, falling below flood stage on Thursday.
The flooding came following back-to-back days of record rainfall in Jackson. The city had nearly 9 inches of rain in two days last week.