PHOENIX More than 250 residents and tourists have been evacuated from an American Indian village in a remote, scenic offshoot of the Grand Canyon after weekend flooding that wrecked trails and nearly washed away some river rafters in the rugged gorge.
Helicopters had taken 85 tourists and residents out of the Havasupai tribal village of Supai on Monday, but many people elected to stay, said Gerry Blair, a spokesman for the Coconino County Sheriff's Office. Another 170 people had been evacuated by helicopter Sunday from the village, which is an 8-mile hike away from the nearest parking lot.
Authorities on the ground and in the air were searching for about 11 campers and tourists who remained unaccounted for, though they may have left on their own, Blair said.
There were no reports of injuries. It was unclear whether homes in the village were damaged, or whether the washed-out trails kept people from getting out of Supai Canyon by foot or mule.
Some 400 Havasupai tribe members live year-round in Supai. The area is popular with hikers for its towering blue-green waterfalls downstream from the village.
Thunderstorms dumped 3 to 6 inches of rain Friday and Saturday in northern Arizona and about 2 inches more on Sunday. In Supai Canyon, the deluge was only made worse by the breach of a small earthen dam upstream that is used to provide water for livestock.
The dam isn't a "huge, significant" structure, and its rupture was only one factor in the flooding, Blair said.
More showers added almost an inch of rain Monday morning, and slow-moving storms were expected to sweep over the canyon later in the afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
Some visitors were stranded over the weekend as rushing water swept away rafts, backpacks, food and other supplies.
"It was definitely frightening, and there was a lot of, 'Whoa, what are we going to do next and what's the morning going to bring?"' said Mimi Mills, 42, of Nevada City, Calif., who was stranded with 15 other river runners Saturday afternoon after a flash flood washed away their rafts.
Mills said the group took shelter overnight under an overhang but had to scramble up a cliff when another flash flood occurred in the middle of the night.
"I woke up to people yelling, 'We've got to get out of here!"' she said. "We booked it up a cliff in 10 seconds, and we just saw this massive rush of water rage down the creek side."
Mills was among about 35 evacuees who spent Sunday night at a shelter in Peach Springs, about 65 miles southwest of Supai.
Ferdinand Rivera, who was visiting the canyon with friends, awoke around midnight Saturday to the voices of other campers warning of rising flood waters approaching his tent.
Within 10 minutes, he said, he gathered his tent and belongings and sought higher ground. But with a nearby bridge and trails washed out, he said, "there was no way of hiking back; there was no way of getting out."
With his gear in tow, he hiked about 2 miles across rugged ground to the village, where he was evacuated by helicopter Monday afternoon.
Rescuers worked throughout Sunday to locate campers and Supai residents and evacuate them to the top of the canyon if they wished. Blair said tourists were not being allowed back into the canyon.
In 2001, flooding near Supai swept a 2-year-old boy and his parents to their deaths while they were hiking.
The Havasupai tribe is one of the smaller Indian communities in Arizona with about 679 members, according to Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates from 2003, the latest statistics available.
The community is the only one in the United States where the mail is delivered by mule. The animals also bring in fresh produce.
Supai is about 75 miles west of Grand Canyon Village, the popular gateway to Grand Canyon National Park.