120,000 Still Displaced by Flooding Rivers in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay

Flooding of several rivers in South America, including the Uruguay, Paraguay and Paraná, has forced over 100,000 people from their homes in parts of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay since late December 2015.

River levels have recently shown signs of falling in some areas. However the situation in Asunción, Alberdi and Pilar in Paraguay remains precarious.

Further heavy rainfall during the weekend of 02 to 03 January 2016 has increased levels of the Paraná in some areas of Chaco province in Argentina, where at least 6,000 people are still displaced.

At least 120,000 people currently remain displaced by the floods across the four countries, with most of them in Paraguay.

Paraguay

The meteorological department in Paraguay – La Dirección de Meteorología e Hidrología (DMH) – says that heavy rainfall throughout December in river catchment areas was the result of a strong El Niño. DMH say that they expect El Niño to strengthen until the middle of next year and we should expect the river levels to rise further, in particular during March and April 2016.

Rainfall levels in Paraguay, December 2015. Image:
Rainfall levels in Paraguay, December 2015. Image: DHM

Asunción

More than 94,000 people are receiving humanitarian assistance in Asunción, according to the Municipal Disaster and Emergency. Many have been housed temporarily in one of the 122 emergency shelters set up for those displaced by the floods.

The flooding has affected the poorer communities close to the river, in particular the Los Baños area, since the river stared to rise during late November last year. Floods have forced over 60,000 people from their homes in Los Baños.

As of yesterday, levels of the Paraguay River in Asunción stood at 7.84 metres but have since fallen to 7.78 metres. Two months ago the river stood at 3.30 metres. Alerts are issued when the level is 4.5 metres. Critical level is considered to be 5.5 metres and disaster level 8 metres.

On the opposite bank of the Paraguay River, around 6,000 people have evacuated the town of Nanawa, in Presidente Hayes department, according to reports by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

Alberdi and Pilar

Authorities in Paraguay are now concerned that the flooding is heading downstream. Particularly at risk are the towns of Alberdi and Pilar, where river levels have increased by around 4 metres since November last year.

Paraguay’s emergency agency, La Secretaría de Emergencia Nacional (SEN), have issued evacuation warnings to all residents in the small town of Alberdi in Ñeembucú Department, where river levels stood at 9.80 metres as of 07 January 2016. Some residents have evacuated to the nearby city of Formosa in Argentina. However many still remain in Alberdi, reluctant to leave their homes. Should flood defences fail it is likely that the whole town will be flooded. SEN have taken water pumps, as well as technical and installation materials to Alberdi via Formosa to help protect the town from flooding. Over the last 24 hours, river levels have shown some signs of stabilizing.

In Pilar, the Paraguay River now stands at 9.07 metres and is still rising. Levels would normally be around 4.5 metres at this time of year. Alerts are issued when the level is 7 metres. Critical level is considered to be 8 metres and disaster level 9.6 metres.

Uruguay

In Uruguay, levels of the Uruguay River have fallen in the provinces of Artigas, Salto and Paysandú over the last few days, although still remain above flood stage.

Almost 13,000 remain displaced by flooding that has affected the provinces since late December, most of them in the two provinces of Paysandú and Salto, according to the latest report from Uruguay’s emergency authority, Sistema Nacional de Emergencias (SINAE).

Floods in Uruguay, January 2016. Photo: SINAE
Floods in Uruguay, January 2016. Photo: SINAE

Argentina

Thousands have been displaced in Argentina since the Paraná, Uruguay and Paraguay rivers overflowed in late December.

Recently rivers have been showing some signs of falling, and many have begun to return to their homes in Entre Ríos and Sante Fe. However, heavy rain in catchment areas over the weekend of 02 to 03 January 2016 has increased levels of the Paraná in some areas of Chaco province.

Corrientes Province

At least 8,000 people remain displaced in Corrientes Province after flooding caused by the Uruguay and Paraná rivers since late December 2015.

Levels of the Paraná River are still high in Itatí, Paso de la Patria, Corrientes city, Bella Vista, Goya and Esquina. Authorities in Argentina yesterday said that in Itatí, the Paraná river was at 7.60 metres, 10 cm above evacuation levels. In Paso de la Patria, river levels were 7.73 metres, which is over 70cm above evacuation levels.

Elsewhere in the province, the cities of La Cruz, Bonpland and Monte Caseros are on alert as levels of the Uruguay River remain high, although are showing some signs of falling. In Paso de los Libres, some families remain displaced as river levels there stand at 9.23 metres, still well above the evacuation stage of 8.50 metres.

Chaco Province

Flooding of the Paraná River in Chaco province has affected the municipalities of Barranqueras, Puerto Bermejo, General Vedia, Las Palmas and Isla del Cerrito. At least 6,000 people remain displaced according to the province’s ministry of social development.

Provincial water authorities said that levels of the Paraná have further increased over the last 2 days after heavy rain in southern Brazil, Paraguay and northeastern Argentina last weekend.

There is a fear that the flooding will cause an increase in dengue fever in affected areas. The government in Chaco has called for communities to strengthen dengue prevention measures, and declared a preventive alert throughout the province.

Entre Ríos and Santa Fe

At the peak of the floods more than 13,5000 people were displaced in the province of Entre Ríos. Since then levels of the Uruguay and Paraná have fallen, although as of 06 January 2015, around 11,000 people remained displaced in Concordia, the worst affected area.

Given that river levels have show some signs of stabilizing, many of those displaced are preparing to return to their homes.

The province’s ministry of health are warning residents in affected areas of the dangers of water- and vector-borne diseases, and the increased threat of accidents such as electrocution or snake bites as a result of standing water.

Levels of the Paraná and Salado rivers in Santa Fe province are also showing signs of falling.

Brazil

Around 9,000 people were evacuated in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state during late December after the Uruguay River overflowed. The worst affected areas included Uruguaiana, Alegrete, Rosário do Sul and São Borja.

By early January 2016, the state’s civil defence authority said that more municipalities had been affected by the flooding. On 05 January civil defence said that in total, 43 municipalities suffered some kind of damage from the flooding during late December. Around 2,841 families were evacuated.

The Civil Defense of Rio Grande do Sul said that all requests for humanitarian aid have been met and they will be carrying out assessments and monitoring the situation of those affected.