Evacuations After Uruguay River Threatens to Overflow

Two days of heavy rainfall in Uruguay has increased levels of the Uruguay River, prompting evacuations in the cities of Bella Unión, Salto and Paysandú.

So far, Sistema Nacional de Emergencias (SINAE), the Uruguay disaster management authority, says that 32 people have been evacuated from the threatened areas in Bella Unión (6), Salto (13) and Paysandú (13). The evacuations have so far all been precautionary and no damage to homes or property has been reported.

River Levels

The Uruguay at Bella Unión currently stands at 7.05 metres. During the floods of 2009 it reached 9 metres prompting the evacuation of around 300 people.

In Salto the river levels are currently 12.1 metres – more than 3 metres under the 2009 floods where it reached 15.75 meters and a total of 3230 people were evacuated.

In Paysandú the river levels are just over 6 metres. In 2009 as many as 4,355 people were forced to evacuate after the river reached 9.07 metres.

The Uruguay river also overflowed in July 2014 when almost 2,000 people were evacuated.

Flooded street in Paysandú, July 2014 Photo: presidencia.gub.uy
Flooded street in Paysandú, July 2014 Photo: presidencia.gub.uy

Rainfall

Rainfall figures below according to WMO, for a 24 hour period between 6 and 7 January 2015.

Mercedes – 71 mm
Gualeguaychu – 182 mm
Paysandu – 75 mm
Durazno – 120 mm

Salto Grande Dam Release

Local media in Uruguay are reporting that the heavy rain and increased levels of the Salto Grande Dam have forced authorities to release water from the dam, therefore increasing river levels downstream.

The Salto Grande Dam is a large hydroelectric dam on the Uruguay River, located between Concordia, Argentina, and Salto, Uruguay.

Argentina and Brazil

Heavy rainfall has also been affecting parts of Argentina and Brazil over the last 48 hours. Flooding has been reported in parts of Brazil, in particular Sao Paulo, the country’s most populous city and one notorious for its poor drainage system. At one point yesterday, Congonhas Airport had to be closed as a result of floods (see our article on airports and flooding here).