Heavy rains in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have caused rivers to overflow and forced tens of thousands from their homes. Flooding has been affecting neighbouring Paraguay since early December and continues to worsen. Levels of the Paraguay River in Asunción now stand at almost 5 metres above normal for this time of year.
Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil
As many as 40 municipalities have been affected by flooding in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state, according to authorities there. The flooding has forced almost 2,000 families (around 9,000 people) to evacuate.
Several rivers in the state have overflowed, in particular the Uruguay River in Uruguaiana municipality. According to the latest reports from Rio Grande do Sul civil defence, river levels were at 11.18 metres on 27 December, which is over 3 metres above alert levels and over 6 metres above normal levels.
Evacuations have been carried out in 12 municipalities including Uruguaiana, Alegrete, Rosário do Sul and São Borja.
Flooding has been affecting some parts of the state for the last 7 days. Around 200 families were evacuated after heavy rainfall between 21 and 22 December had increased levels of the Uruguay River, flooding municipalities of Uruguaiana, Quaraí, Itaqui and Sao Borja.
River levels have continued to rise since then. By 25 December 2015, as many as 1,479 families had evacuated their homes in 9 municipalities. That figure rose to 1,810 families by 27 December 2015.
Argentina – Entre Ríos, Chaco, Corrientes and Formosa
The overflowing Uruguay, Paraguay and Paraná rivers in Argentina have forced around 25,000 from their homes.
The Uruguay River has overflowed in province of Entre Ríos, Argentina. The city of Concordia is the worst affected where at least 10,000 people have been evacuated. Almost 40 evacuation centres have been set up to house those displaced. The president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, visited affected areas on 27 December 2015.
The province of Corrientes, Argentina, has also been affected by the overflowing Paraná River. At least 8,000 people have been evacuated as a result. The cities of Itatí, Ituzaingó, Bella Vista, Paso de la Patria, Goya and Corrientes have all been affected.
In Chaco province, the city of Barranqueras has been worst affected. Around 5,000 have been evacuated after the Paraná River overflowed.
River levels are thought to be stabilising in Entre Ríos, Chaco and Corrientes. However, levels of the Paraguay River in Formosa Province are rising and are expected to rise further over the coming days. Around 800 families have been evacuated from Formosa city, Clorinda and Herradura.
Uruguay – Salto, Paysandú, Artigas, Río Negro and Florida
Over 11,000 people have now been displaced by overflowing rivers in 5 departments of Uruguay.
According to Uruguay’s national emergency department, Sistema Nacional de Emergencias ( SINAE), the departments affected are Salto, Paysandú, Artigas, Río Negro and Florida. Previously the department of Rivera had also been affected.
In their latest report, SINAE say that 11,357 have been displaced: 6,005 in Artigas, 2,357 in Paysandú, 2,942 in Salto, 51 in Río Negro and 2 in Florida.
In the city of Artigas, the Cuareim River (also known as the Quaraí), a tributary of the Uruguay River rose to 15.28 meters on Wednesday 23 December 2015. Levels had fallen 48 hours later to 13.65 meters. Safety levels are considered to be 10.20 metres.
SINAE say there could be many more people who have been forced from their homes by the flooding that are yet to be registered by the authorities. Around 1,900 people are currently living in relief camps set up by emergency officials.
Paraguay – Asunción, Ñeembucú and Concepción
Flooding from the Paraguay River in Asunción has been affecting residents living in the areas of Bañado Sur and Bañado Norte, which are close to the river, since early December.
Levels of the Paraguay River in Asunción continue to rise and, as of 24 December 2015, stood at 7.71 metres. This is the second highest level ever recorded for the month of December.
Critical levels are 5.5 metres. Danger levels are considered to be 8 metres by local emergency authorities, where major evacuations would be required.
Levels appear to be rising further. Paraguay’s Administración Nacional De Navegación Y Puertos reported on 24 December that levels have increased a further 7 cm between 23 and 24 December. Levels are expected to reach 8 metres in the coming days.
Local authorities say that in total around 18,000 families are affected by the flooding in Asunción.
According to a statement of 24 December 2015 from Asunción’s disaster management department – Dirección de Emergencias y Desastres Municipal (COMUEDA) – there are currently 11,455 families (Bañado Sur – 6,163 families, Bañado Norte – 5,302) evacuated and staying in one of the 112 shelters set up.
Paraguay’s emergency management authority, Secretaría De Emergencia Nacional (SEN), say that the Paraguay, Apa, Aquidabán, and Ypané rivers have all overflowed. At least 1,000 people have been affected in Concepción department.
In Ñeembucú Department around 250 families have been affected by flooding after a series of severe storms on 23 December 2015. Around 75 families were evacuated. Media say that flooding has also affected the departments of Misiones and Presidente Hayes departments. The storms brought strong winds which left around 4 people dead and caused power outages for over 100,000 in Asunción and surrounding Central Department.
Flooding of the river is common between May and August, but rare during November and December. SEN say that the recent flooding is “directly influenced by the presence of El Niño”, which has intensified the frequency and intensity of rainfall, mainly in the Oriental Region, overflowing water channels that discharge into the Paraguay River.