Dam Walls in Southeast Missouri Break

In the rural town of Lesterville, Mo., a family of five, including three small children, had to be rescued after a rupture in a hydroelectric plant dam wall.

According to witnesses, the children were found half a mile from their home after it was swept off its foundation. The children remain in critical condition at Cardinal Glennon Childrens Hospital in St. Louis, suffering from hypothermia and difficulty breathing.

The breach happened around 5:30 a.m. Central time at Ameren UE's Taum Sauk Hydroelectric plant, sending large amounts of water over the reservoir's edge.

The lake and the dam are part of Ameren UE's facility in Reynolds County. The plant stores water from the Black River in the upper reservoir and releases water to a lower reservoir to generate electricity. The dam breach caused the water to release too quickly and resulted in flooding.

Missouri state officials said the lower reservoir dam was at no risk of a break.

"The dam itself is holding, so you don't have a significant surge in the water levels in the Black River," said Gov. Matt Blunt. "The Black River basin is certainly something that we're watching extremely closely."

Ameren UE is based in St. Louis. The company has sent a team of two dozen managers, engineers and specialists to the scene to investigate.

"We are bringing in experts, geologists from Chicago to look at the situation and tell us exactly what happened, what caused the failure, " said Gary Rainwater, president and chief executive officer of Ameren UE. "But we really can't tell you at this time why the failure of the reservoir occurred."

An alarm system was triggered after lower-than-normal water levels in the basin indicated there was some sort of leak.