Bolivia – Deadly Flash Floods in La Paz Department

Seven people died after heavy rain caused rivers to overflow in La Paz Department of Bolivia.

Navy search and rescue operations in Mapiri, La Paz Department, Bolivia, November 2021. Photo: Armada Bolivia

The incident occurred on 12 November 2021 after heavy rainfall caused the Mercke and Mapiri rivers to break their banks in Larecaja province. Bolivia’s National Naval Hydrography Service reported that levels of the Mapiri river jumped by over 3 metres on 12 November.

Several people were reported missing near town of Mapiri. Military teams were deployed to the area for search and rescue operations. As of 16 November, officials said 7 people had died in the incident and around 25 households were affected. Many of the the victims are believed to be miners who were working in the area.

Flooding was also reported further south in Larecaja province after the Tipuani River broke its banks and flooded areas of Guanay Municipality. Local media speculated the flood was a result a breakage of a tailings dam of a nearby mine.

The same rivers caused severe flooding in the region in January this year.

Further severe weather has been forecast and the National Meteorology and Hydrology Service (Senamhi) issued an orange alert for heavy rain in the departments of La Paz, Cochabamba, Beni, Pando and Santa Cruz for the coming days. Some areas have already seen significant rainfall. Trinidad in Beni Department recorded 101 mm of rain in 24 hours to 16 November, while San Javier in Santa Cruz Department recorded 169 mm.

The rainy season in the country usually begins in November and normally lasts until March, with greater intensity in January and February.

Navy search and rescue operations in in Mapiri, La Paz Department, Bolivia, November 2021. Photo: Armada Bolivia