Residents in neighborhoods hit hard by floods in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion slammed the government on Wednesday for failing to respond to the crisis that has already displaced some 15,000 people in less than a week.
Thousands of affected people facing homelessness and a lack of government support have occupied public places as a form of refuge as the water levels in the Paraguay River rise at a rate of almost four inches (10 cm) per day, local media reported.
“There are people living in their houses with water up to their wastes. Elderly people living alone, single mothers with many children,” Carmen Cabrera, a neighborhood representative in the affected area of Asuncion’s Bañado Sur, told EFE. “Everything is very affected, even though we still can’t measure (the full impact).”
At a water level of over 20 feet (6.24 meters), more than 7 feet (over 2 meters) above its usual level, some 5,500 families have already been impacted. Estimates suggest that up to 12,000 families will be impacted if the river continues to rise and reaches its expected water level of about 23 feet (7 meters) by the end of the month.
“People who can are going to relatives’ houses, but the majority of us are building temporary little houses with some wood and (other materials),” Cabrera told EFE.
Community members accused the government of only providing unsafe shelters, making it difficult for families of children to relocate to limited shelter spaces. Lawmakers have ratified a district state of emergency and asked the Ministry of National Emergencies to allocate funds.
“Emergency for floods ratified in Asuncion.”
The river began to rise earlier this week, forcing authorities to evacuate flooding poor communities in the affected Los Bañados area, home to close to 100,000 people or just under one-fifth of Asuncion’s total population.
The floods come as a result of a particularly strong El Niño effect this year, which meteorologists have dubbed the most intense El Niño on record.
Floods have been recurring in the Paraguay River for more than a decade. In 2014, the river hit a water level of about 23 feet, impacting some 200,000 people. Community members say up to 10,000 people are still living in precarious conditions as a result of last year’s flood, EFE reported.
Authorities expect the river to hit similar levels by the end of this year.
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