Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Rain and flooding caused the main water treatment facility in Jackson, Miss., to fail Monday, leaving the state's largest city without safe running water and prompting Gov. Tate Reeves to declare a state of emergency.
Neither of the plant's main pumps were working, with just one backup pump still operating.
At a press briefing, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the surge in river water overwhelmed an already "fragile" O.B. Curtis Water Plant, which led to low or no water pressure to many households in the region.
"This is a citywide challenge that they are working to recover from," he said, according to NBC News.
Emergency crews were working furiously to get the water running again, but the shortage was still expected to last at least a couple days, Jackson officials said in a statement.
Reeves summed up the extent of the emergency, saying Jackson was without its most critical resource to respond to emergencies or perform everyday tasks.
"Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale," Reeves said at a news conference, according to the Clarion Ledger. "It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets and to meet other critical needs."
Reeves said the water treatment facility had been operating without a failsafe system, and that one of its main pumps was recently damaged.
Reeves also declared a statewide emergency, and called in the National Guard to assist in recovery efforts. As part of the order, the state's Emergency Management Agency will be charged with setting up a command center at the plant, and handing out drinking water to residents.
Officials warned residents who may still have water pressure against using it for the time being.
"The water is not safe to drink," state health officer Daniel Eden said at a news conference, according to NBC. "I'd even say it's not safe to brush your teeth with -- because we are not seeing adequate chlorination and an inability to consistently disinfect the water." He added that water would need to be boiled for a few minutes to be used.
Meanwhile, schools in the area have shifted to virtual learning during the shortage.
News footage of the devastation showed some neighborhoods completely underwater.
Still many had feared a wider disaster from record rainfall in the region, but by Tuesday morning the Pearl River was receding after reaching dangerous levels slightly above 35 feet. A day earlier officials issued a mandatory evacuation order as the Pearl River was expected to crest at 35.5 feet following days of rain.
"The good news is that the water levels came in lower than projected," Lumumba said at the briefing.
The city had already issued a boil-water advisory last month after faucet water appeared cloudy and raised concerns about potential health risks.