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Rising water forces evacuations in New England

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CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) -- Record-breaking rains in the Northeast forced hundreds of people from their homes by today, knocked out sewage treatment plants, and snarled traffic on major East Coast routes as roads and bridges transformed into a soaked labyrinth of detours and closures.

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As the rain tapered to a drizzle, forecasters warned the worst of widespread flooding from Maine to New York was still ahead as rivers were yet to crest -- for the second time in a month.

In Rhode Island, a coastal state enduring the most severe damage, residents were experiencing the worst flooding in more than 100 years. Stretches of Interstate 95, the main route linking Boston to New York, were closed and could remain shut for days.

Non-essential state workers in Rhode Island were given the day off, and state officials asked schools and private businesses to consider closing, as well. Officials in water-weary Warwick asked residents to avoid washing clothes or flushing the toilet after a water and sewage treatment plant failed. The state also asked people to stay off highways and local roads.

"None of us alive have seen the flooding that we are experiencing now or going to experience," Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri said. "This is unprecedented in our state's history."

The new rains came as residents were still recovering from a storm two weeks ago that dumped as much as 10 inches on the region. President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration late Tuesday for Rhode Island, ordering federal aid for disaster relief and authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts.

The havoc was spread throughout the region as National Guard troops went into action in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and residents evacuated as floodwaters rose.

More than 100 people were ordered to leave an apartment complex in Milford, N.H, and heavy rains in Connecticut caused the earth under a Middletown apartment complex parking lot to give way, leaving two buildings teetering over the ravine of a river. Residents were taken to an emergency shelter at a high school.

Authorities also evacuated 50 units at a condominium complex in Jewett City in eastern Connecticut because a sewage treatment plant next door was under at least 4 feet of water.

In Massachusetts, the biggest concerns were in the southeastern part of the state, where a highway was closed, said state Emergency Management Agency spokesman Scott MacLeod. A bridge gave out in Freetown, isolating about 1,000 residents, he said.

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