Floods in Panama City After 100mm of Rain – Officials Say Garbage Caused Drainage System Failure

Torrential rainfall in Panama City on 10 May, 2016, triggered floods causing transport disruption and damage to more than 100 houses. At least 60 people have been forced to evacuate their homes.

Sudden, Localised Downpour

The month of May is known to be the start of the rain season in the Pacific region of the Republic of Panama. According to the Electrical Transmission Society of Panama (ETESA), which is in charge of meteorological observations and forecasts, intense, localized heavy rain was observed on 10 May 2016 in some neighbourhoods of the capital city.

Heavy rain was recorded in Parque Levefre, Panama Viejo and Río Abajo neighbourhoods. A weather station close to Hato Pintado recorded 101.5 mm in 24 hours to the 10 May 2016. In contrast, Albrook, just 5km away, and Tocumen, around 15 km away, recorded rainfall below 30mm.

The ETESA was able to issue a meteorological alert a few hours in advance, based on forecasting done using radar observations.

Flooded Roads and Damaged Houses

The areas of the city of Panama most affected by the torrential rain were Parque Levefre and Río Abajo neighbourhoods, where there were more than 100 houses damaged and 168 people affected.

The Municipal Authorities reported that 60 persons from Río Abajo were displaced to hotels, as their houses were unsafe.

The intense rain also caused roads to flood in other areas of the town, such as Calle 50, Vía Argentina, Tumba Muerto, Transístmica, Vía Porras, Tocumen, Punta Pacífica and Panamá Viejo.

The National System of Civil Protection of the Republic of Panama (El Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil de Panamá, SINAPROC) reported a landslide with destruction of a wall in San Miguelito district.

The intense rain also significantly affected the public and private transport, with several roads inundated in flood water up to half a meter deep. Many vehicles were left stranded in the streets. The city’s urban drainage system was unable to cope with the high levels of rainfall. According to SINAPROC, a major cause for the collapse of the drainage system was the high levels of garbage in the streets that blocked drainage channels.