Colombia – Floods Affect 50,000 After Rivers Overflow in Arauca

Severe flooding in Arauca Department in eastern Colombia has affected over 50,000 people since mid-July. Many of those affected are refugees from bordering Venezuela.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that heavy rains in the foothills of the plains and the upper part of the Arauca River from 11 July 2021 caused an increase in the flow levels of at least eleven rivers in the department.

Flooding damaged homes and livelihoods in rural and urban areas of the the municipalities of Saravena, Arauquita, Tame, Fortul and Arauca, and later in areas of Cravo Norte and Puerto Rondón municipalities. The departmental government reported 300,000 hectares of land was flooded. As much as 50% of rural land in the municipality of Arauca has flooded. Flooding has also damaged roads and bridges, leaving areas cut off.

The government of Arauca said that as of 18 July, floods affected 8,850 people in Arauca, 6,400 in Tame, 11,440 in Fortul and 6,312 in Saravena. As of 28 July, Colombia’s National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD) reported at least 11,868 families (47,472 people) have been affected by the floods across the department.

Of the 50,000 affected, approximately 5,972 are people of Venezuelan nationality (1,493 families) according to OCHA. Flooding in areas of the municipality of Arauca inhabited by refugee and migrant populations from Venezuela and displaced and host populations had forced many to build makeshift shelters on roadsides.

Flooding in Puerto Nariño in Saravena, Arauca, June 2021. Photo: Municipality of Saravena

The government of Arauca department reported severe flooding in Puerto Nariño municipality in early June this year after heavy rain caused the Banadia River and other smaller tributaries to break their banks. The government said more than 1,000 homes were flooded, 7 bridges damaged along with thousands of hectares of farmland. The government of Arauca said it’s the worst flooding seen since May 2015.