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  • Police officers help a woman after a landslide caused by heavy rains in La Paz, Bolivia, Feb. 13, 2019.

    Police officers help a woman after a landslide caused by heavy rains in La Paz, Bolivia, Feb. 13, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 February 2019

President Evo Morales' administration has already distributed at least 50 tons of humanitarian aid in the affected regions.

Bolivia’s Minister of Defense Javier Zavaleta announced that dozens of municipalities across the country have declared states of emergency and disaster due to flooding caused by heavy rains.

RELATED:
Bolivia: 'El Niño' Phenomenon Kills 18

"There are already 50 municipalities declared both in emergency and disaster and the figure is growing day by day," the minister said, and announced that the most affected departments are Tarija, Potosi and La Paz.

President Evo Morales' administration has already distributed at least 50 tons of humanitarian aid in the affected regions. Zavaleta also highlighted the reaction of the governorates and city halls to address these contingencies.

For the largest number of affected municipalities, the departments declared in the emergency are La Paz and Potosi.

"The Señor de las Lagunas neighborhood, which is the city of El Alto, on the road to Copacabana, was flooded due to heavy rains. People are asking for help from the Mayor's office of emergency personnel."

By departments, Tarija has one municipality in emergency and 6 in disaster; Cochabamba has 6 in disaster; Santa Cruz, 5 in disaster; Potosi, 8 in emergency and 2 in disaster; Beni, 5 in emergency; Chuquisaca, 2 in emergency; La Paz, 13 in disaster; and Oruro has 2 municipalities declared in emergency.

Up to Feb. 15, a total of 19,721 affected families were registered; 15,941 hectares of lost crops; 59 homes destroyed; 20 deceased; and 12 missing persons.

The heavy rains registered in Bolivia during this week are related to the presence of the atmospheric changes prompted by El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is a recurring climate pattern that increases water temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. 

"Important meteorological warning. U.S. NOAA and WPC announce the formation of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Feb. 2019 update: El Niño conditions are here."

Due to the ENSO’s periods, which range from 3 up to 7 years, the ocean surface waters could warm from 1°C up to 3°C, compared to normal.

The ocean warming generates an accumulation of humidity that produces thunderclouds, storms and floods in Latin American countries that are located below the Equator.

On Feb. 14, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an ENSO Advisory, which indicates that the climate pattern has taken effect and is likely to continue, although the oscillation is expected to be weak.

“El Niño conditions across the equatorial Pacific have come together, and we can now announce its arrival,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said and added that “while sea surface temperatures are above average, current observations and climate models indicate that this El Niño will be weak, meaning we do not expect significant global impacts through the remainder of winter and into the spring.”

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