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Biden declares emergency over Mississippi water crisis

People line up for water in Jackson, Mississippi, on August 30, 2022.

US President Joe Biden's administration has declared a state of emergency over a water crisis in the State of Mississippi and ordered Federal assistance to supplement the state's response.

The Biden administration authorized the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the crisis-ridden state.

The water crisis broke out after a long-troubled main treatment plant broke down, leaving most of the state capital without safe running water, possibly for days.

Governor Tate Reeves warned the capital city of Jackson and surrounding communities’ 180,000 people to avoid drinking tap water.

The city has also been battered by record rainfall and flooding over the weekend.

Tankers distributed non-potable water and bottled drinking water was distributed at several sites, the city said.

The breakdown occurred Monday when floodwaters seeped into an understaffed and poorly maintained treatment plant.

The shutdown created havoc for businesses, and Jackson public schools, with nearly 21,000 students, were forced to move classes online as they had done during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's a hurtful feeling when you don't have any water, especially when you've got newborn babies," Monica Lashay Bass, a mother of three, said from her car after queuing up for her allotment of bottled water.

Jackson’s residents have long been contending with frequent cuts of water supply.

Winter storms in February 2021 caused most residents there to briefly lose running water, and a year ago the US Environmental Protection Agency year ago issued an emergency order saying the water supply could contain E. Coli, according to Mississippi Today.

Jackson that is more than 80% African-American is suffering from a rift between the Republican state officials and the Democratic administration of the city.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the Mississippi water crisis “accumulated problems on deferred maintenance.”

He said "maintenance has not taken place over decades" for the water treatment systems, damaged in historic floods that left 180,000 people without safe drinking water.

The governor has alleged the water treatment plant suffered from years of city mismanagement, while the mayor accused the state of being absent from efforts to maintain and update the plant.

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