Colombia – Over 50,000 Affected by Floods in North as Rivers Overflow

Flooding along rivers in northern Colombia has affected over 50,000 people, mostly in the La Mojana Region in the departments of Bolivar, Sucre, Antioquia and Cordoba. Wide areas of crops have been damaged and thousands of livestock relocated.

Floods in Cordoba, Colombia September 2021. Civil Defence volunteers in boats help to evacuate some and deliver aid to those who decided to remain. Photo: Civil Defence Colombia

According to Colombia’s Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), several rivers in the north have been above alert levels for some time, including the Cauca, San Jorge, Magdalena and Sinú. The situation along the Cauca was worsened by the collapse of a river embankment in San Jacinto del Cauca in Bolívar Department, according to local media reports.

Sucre Department

The government of Sucre Department reported on 03 September that flooding had affected a total of 23,349 people from 6,336 households across the municipalities of Caimito, Guarandá, Sucre, Majagual, San Marcos, San Benito Abad, Colosó and Galeras. The municipalities of Caimito (5,179 people affected), San Benito Abad (4,877) and Sucre (9,067) are the worst affected.

Some of the affected population have evacuated their homes. Authorities have set up temporary accommodation in 29 locations. As of 03 September, 4,278 people had moved to the emergency accommodation. Furthermore livelihoods have suffered with flooding causing damage to a total of 6,175 hectares or rice and 500 hectares of banana crops in the affected areas.

Many of the areas affected are either along the banks of the Cauca River, such as Guarandá and Majagual, or situated in the low-lying marshlands that make up the outer delta system of the Magdalena River, such as San Marcos, San Benito Abad, Sucre and Caimito.

Antioquia Department

Colombia Civil Protection reported flooding in Nechí in the far north of Antioquia Department from late August 2021. A total of 5,285 people were affected and 1,057 homes damaged.

Nechí sits on the banks of the Cauca River. The river was above red alert (highest) level of 8.2 metres from mid-August. On 22 August the Cauca crested at 9.03 metres. It has been falling slowly since then but was still above red alert levels until 03 September. As of 10 September, the Cauca at Nechi stood at 7.66 metres, which is still above yellow alert (third highest).

Cauca river at Nechi, Antioquia, Colombia, August to September 2021. Image: IDEAM

Bolivar Department

In Bolivar, Civil Defence reported 9,800 people affected in Achí and 9,325 in San Jacinto del Cauca. Both communities are situated close to the Cauca River. A total of 1,956 homes were damaged and 2 destroyed in Achí and 1,865 homes damaged in San Jacinto del Cauca. On 24 August 2021 the Cauca at San Jacinto del Cauca crested at 6.94 metres, where red alert (highest) level is around 5.5 metres.

Levels of the Cauca River at San Jacinto del Cauca, Bolivar department, Colombia, August to September 2021. Image: IDEAM

Civil Defence also reported thousands of people affected by floods in areas of Magangué, which is situated in he marshlands and on the Magdalena River, close to the mouth of the Cauca. Civil Defence reported around 12,441 people were affected and 2,181 homes damaged in Magangué from 30 August 2021.

Córdoba Department

In Córdoba, areas of the municipality of Ayapel were flooded from late August, with around 5,000 residents affected. According to Civil Protection, dozens of houses were destroyed and around 900 damaged, mostly in Marralú which is on the San Jorge river. On 27 August the San Jorge river crested at 8.03 metres, well above red alert level of 7.5 metres. As of 09 September the river was still above orange alert level, sating at 7.07 metres.

Areas of Sabananueva in San Pelayo municipality were also affected by flooding along the Sinú River. Around 135 homes were damaged affecting 600 people. At the nearby measuring station at Santa Cruz de Lorica, levels of the Sinú have been above red alert since late August. As of 09 September the Sinú stood at 5.86 metres, still above red alert level.