Evacuees Melvin, Blair Alves and Eddy are waiting for a bed in a makeshift shelter at Neighborhood Church in Chico, California, on February 13, 2017. Trever Danials CTN News

Officials on Sunday ordered the evacuation of thousands of people in northern California because of severe damage at the Oroville dam, which could lead to flooding in areas near the marsh.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flood warning tonight about the “potential” collapse of a section of the Oroville auxiliary spillway, about 250 kilometers northeast of San Francisco.

According to this official warning, the collapse of the structure “would result in an uncontrolled release of water from Lake Oroville.”

“Only the auxiliary spillway of the Oroville dam is considered under threat at this time,” added the NWS text.

In view of this risk, authorities ordered evacuation of the “localities of Oroville, Palermo, Gridley, Thermalito, South Oroville, Oroville Dam, Oroville East and Wyandotte”.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the cause of the alert was the discovery of a hole in the dam’s drainage, and said, citing official sources, “that authorities try to plug the hole with bags of rocks while trying to reduce the water level of Lake Oroville in order to reduce the pressure the damaged area.

Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea said there was “a significant concern” that the hole could compromise the integrity of the drain, which would lead to an “abundant” release of water.

“We had to take the critical and difficult decision to begin evacuation of the Oroville area,” he added.

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