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President Reagan, having helped stack the sandbags in Ft....

WASHINGTON -- President Reagan, having helped stack the sandbags in Ft. Wayne last week, designated flood-ravaged Indiana a major disaster area Saturday to make it eligible for federal assistance programs.

An estimated $20 million dollars in damage has been wrought in Fort Wayne and surrounding Allen County by rampaging rivers. Some 11,000 people were forced from their homes and farm crops were ruined.

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Officials said Saturday the worst may be over as the rivers began falling from their high water marks.

As Reagan wrapped up a three-state speaking trip last Tuesday, he suddenly ordered his advance teams to Fort Wayne to prepare for a spur-of-the-moment visit to the flooded city. He had Air Force One, the presidential plane, fly low over the ravaged area on a sight-seeing sweep before landing.

Before citizens were aware what was happening, the president was standing in their midst, his dark suit buttoned, wearing borrowed rubber boots and helping them build a sandbag dike along the St. Mary's River. He lost one boot in the mud.

He later climbed onto a table in a Red Cross station to tell the evacuees living there they would be proud of the thousands of young volunteers helping hold the dikes.

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Indiana Gov. Robert Orr and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., had requested Reagan to declare the city and county as a federal disaster area.

The decision opens the way for residents, business concerns and governmental units to apply for federal funds for 'relief and recovery efforts,' the official statement said.

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