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Water Main Break Traps Motorists Near Washington

December 23, 2008

BETHESDA, MD --- A water main break today sent icy floodwaters rushing down a commuter road just outside of Washington D.C., requiring rescue workers to scramble to save trapped motorists, the Associated Press reported.

Helicopters and boats were dispatched to pull commuters from the frigid floodwaters. Television cameras on the scene captured two people in a minivan climbing into a basket lowered from a helicopter.

At least 15 people were rescued by 10 a.m. Montgomery County fire department spokesman Pete Piringer told AP that crews were struggling to make rescues because the water was moving so quickly.

Several of the motorists rescued were treated for hypothermia. The temperature was about 20 degrees in the area, the National Weather Service said.

"I thought it might be a minor leak, then suddenly I stepped outside and 'My God!'" Raj Bhansaly, whose house is about 50 feet from the flood, told AP. "It looked literally like the Potomac River."

From his house, Bhansaly said he could see two cars in the rushing water that were tied to rescue vehicles with ropes.

The 66-inch water main broke about 8 a.m. on River Road near the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, authorities told AP.

John White, a Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission spokesman, said the valves to shut off the water were underwater. He added that he did not know exactly where the break occurred.

To view CNN video of the rescue efforts, click here.


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