The Great Flood of '93 - with its death, destruction and distress that tested Midwest mettle in nine states - was named the top news story of the year in a survey of news executives by The Associated Press.

Runner-up among the 300 respondents in the 57th annual survey was the apocalyptic image from a wind-swept Texas prairie - a botched raid of a religious cult, a 51-day standoff with a self-proclaimed Lamb of God and an inferno that left more than 80 dead.The Waco fire barely topped the No. 3 choice - the fledgling presidency of William Jefferson Clinton, whose tribulations were tempered by accomplishment in his inaugural year.

Here are the top stories of 1993:

1. FLOOD - The numbers told only part of the story: 48 dead, more than $10 billion in damage, farmlands twice the size of New Jersey inundated, 100 rivers over flood stage and 15 waterways at all-time high levels, 70,000 people displaced, 421 counties declared disaster areas, 50 towns ravaged, 70 percent of the region's levees overwhelmed, barge traffic grounded, the Mississippi at St. Louis over flood stage for a record 80 days.

But for all the losses, there were also heroic struggles by volunteer sandbaggers to hold back the roiling rivers.

2. FIRE - On Feb. 28, agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Branch Davidian compound, even though sect leader David Koresh - a guitar-playing high school dropout whose real name was Vernon Howell - had been tipped it was coming. Four agents and six cult members were killed in the gun battle. After a 51-day standoff, the FBI led an assault with modified tanks and tear gas. Koresh was blamed for igniting a fire that destroyed the grounds. Among the dead were 17 children.

3. PRESIDENCY - Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton became the first Democrat in 12 years and the first baby boomer to occupy the White House. He promised change and economic revival, but the new leader was tested on Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Haiti, unkept promises, gays in the military, housekeeper problems that scuttled his first two choices for attorney general, the suicide of longtime friend Vincent Foster Jr. Yet the new president got his tax and deficit-reduction package through Congress, won approval for NAFTA, signed the Brady bill and helped end an airline strike.

4. TERRORISM - America's sense of immunity from foreign terrorists was shattered Feb. 26 when a homemade bomb exploded two floors beneath the World Trade Center, killing six and injuring 1,000. The case was cracked when a suspect tried to reclaim the $400 deposit on a rented van used to transport the bomb.

5. SOMALIA - A mercy mission to save starving lives turned to gun battles on the Horn of Africa. During the year, more than 30 Americans and dozens of U.N. forces were killed, including 18 Army Rangers in a disastrous attempt to nab aides of warlord Mohamed Aidid. Clinton decided to pull out U.S. forces.

6. MIDEAST - The picture seemed implausible: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat recognizing each other's existence and agreeing to partial autonomy for Palestinians in lands occupied by Israel. But peace remained elusive as deadlines passed.

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7. NAFTA - Congress approved the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite Ross Perot's prediction of a "giant sucking sound" from U.S. jobs heading south. Over the next 15 years, NAFTA removes trade barriers and opens new markets.

8. HEALTH CARE - Fulfilling a campaign promise, President Clinton unveiled a health-care package that guarantees coverage to all Americans. His task force was led by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Questions over the cost and coverage remain for next year's legislative battles.

9. RUSSIA - President Boris Yeltsin's push to move his country from communism to capitalism erupted in civil disorder in late September. Yeltsin dissolved the holdover Communist Parliament, and it in turn impeached Yeltsin. Both sides claimed to govern Russia, but Yeltsin had military backing. A standoff ended in a 10-hour battle on Oct. 4. Tanks blasted the parliament building and set it ablaze as Yelstin emerged triumphant.

10. BOSNIA - The third year of fighting, shelling and purges bled the former Yugoslavia like an open wound. The United States airdropped food and supplies with mixed success, and NATO attempted to enforce a no-fly zone. Despite threats of U.S. and allied intervention, the killing and maiming overwhelmed cemeteries and battered hospitals.

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