LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - It is illegal to enter flood control tunnels under the Las Vegas Valley. However, that hasn’t stopped many from living in them. A nonprofit group that provides help to homeless people in tunnels recently told FOX5 as many as 1,500 people at any given time are living in the tunnels.
A person who currently lives in tunnels, as well as a former tunnel resident, say they’re concerned about people escaping a flooded tunnel because some storm drain covers have been sealed. Square Manhole Cover
Phillip Perry says he lived in a tunnel for three years in Las Vegas. He recently told FOX5 he has escaped rushing rainwater in tunnels by exiting through a storm drain in them. Unfortunately, he said some storm drain covers have been sealed shut.
“All you had to do is pop up the lid and we come out. We lose everything but we still have our life,” Perry said.
A woman currently living in the tunnels informed FOX5 of the same issue.
FOX5 contacted the city of Las Vegas about the concerns and sent photos of one sealed storm drain cover in downtown.
“In the city’s jurisdiction we have roughly 45,000 manhole and storm drain covers. Of these, about 20 covers specifically for storm drains are sealed as shown in your photos,” said City of Las Vegas Public and Media Relations Supervisor Jace Radke.
Radke says there are two reasons storm drain covers are sealed.
“When flooding occurs some areas have storm drains that can fill. This can cause pressurization to occur, blowing the cover off the drain and causing water to spill out creating a dangerous situation; or Individuals have made it a habit to remove the storm drain cover to illegally access the tunnels, leaving the cover off causing a dangerous situation for pedestrians, bicyclist and motorists,” he said.
In regard to the storm drain cover in downtown Las Vegas, Radke said there is a 15 to 20 foot drop into a dark hole and the city does not want them removed to create a hazard of someone falling into them.
Radke says no one should be going into storm drain tunnels. He says those who do are trespassing and the tunnels are not safe, especially during monsoon season.
In August, two people were found dead in a flood channel near the Strip after strong monsoonal rains.
“Those experiencing homelessness can utilize the city’s Courtyard Homeless Resource Center, which provides a safe place for those in need to stay. The Courtyard also connects individuals with services so that they can become healthy, housed and hired to break the cycle of homelessness,” said Radke.
The nonprofit group Shine A Light has been going into flood tunnels for several years to offer supplies to homeless people. The group will offer immediate treatment and housing help to those who want to leave the tunnels and start a new life.
The group says 220 people in tunnels have left with them since January, and they say most of those people have not returned to the tunnels.
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