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Morning headlines: Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Birds Point Levee

Two dead in St. Charles house fire (updated 11:51 a.m.)

A man and his 2-year-old daughter are dead, and three other family members are badly hurt, after a house fire in St. Charles.

The fire swept through the home just before 3 a.m. Tuesday. Authorities identified the victims as 27-year-old Cameron Gresham and his daughter, Maren Gresham.

They were among four members of the family found by firefighters in an upstairs bedroom. An 11-year-old boy had jumped out of a second-floor window before firefighters arrived. Cameron Gresham was the stepfather of the boy who jumped, Dominic Zwilling.

Dominic, his 8-year-old brother Quentin and mother, 30-year-old Lauren Zwilling, all suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation.

An investigation continues. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries - one from heat exhaustion, one from a sprain.

Birds Point Levee being rebuilt

The Army Corps of Engineers is facing criticism in southeast Missouri for a plan to rebuild Birds Point levee to 51 feet - 11 feet below its height when it was intentionally breached this spring.

The corps blasted three holes in the levee at the height of Mississippi River flooding in early May to lower the river level and help save nearby Cairo, Ill. Cairo was spared, but 130,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland were flooded.

At a hearing Monday in New Madrid, the Southeast Missourian reports that several residents expressed concern about the corps' plan to rebuild the levee to the lower height.

Furg Hunter, a supervisor for the levee district, says a 51-foot levee means farmers face a 50-50 chance of losing everything - again.

SLPS reports first-day attendance

St. Louis school officials say they first-day attendance rate was 80 percent.

Classes resumed for the 2011-2012 school year on Monday with nearly 18,400 students in attendance. Kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment this year is 23,072.

The district also had 80-percent first-day attendance in the last school year.

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