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  • Flooing in Arauca, Colombia. June 25, 2018

    Flooing in Arauca, Colombia. June 25, 2018 | Photo: community of Arauca

Published 25 June 2018

Thousands of residents in the town of Arauca have been forced to higher grounds as its namesake river overflows and breaks a nearby damn. 

More than 4,000 people have been affected by the Arauca River floods that have developed over the past few days leaving people in the town of Arauca and surrounding neighborhoods to take shelter in a local school.

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The Juan Isidro Daboin school is being used to house several families of from Arauca and its surrounding neighborhoods and towns, such as Bello Horizonte, San Vicente de Paul, and Caño Jesus.

This time the Arauca flooding occurred not just because of heavy rains but because pressure from the river’s tributaries caused the river to overrun a local damn, resulting in a 50 meter crack in a dike downriver where the 1,350 km river makes several natural switchbacks.

Within hours on Friday floods inundated houses and small-scale farmers lost animals and cattle, some of which found refuge to graze in on higher grounds.

According to community members of Arauca, located in the department of the same name, they made emergency calls to local and national emergency institutions, even the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, but have gotten little help.

Incoming president Ivan Duque tweeted on Monday about the floods: “All of our solidarity with the 3 thousand people affected by the overflowing of the Arauca river. The affected population should follow the instructions of @UNGRD (Colombian Natural Disaster Agency) and remain alert for any instructions.” The agency’s Twitter feed offers no directions to those suffering from the floods and it’s website can’t be accessed. 

According to the Arauca mayor, "On Sunday night of the town government in coordination with the relief agencies, proceeded to evacuate various families from San Vicente and Bello Horizonte, using the facilities of the Juan Isidro Daboín school in the Mate de Venado neighborhood as a temporary shelter."

The Red Cross and the country’s civil defense estimated that four thousand people were affected, not three, as Duque mentioned.

Unfortunately floods in the Arauca department that border this immense river are nothing new. At each year at this time, residents located along this part of the river suffer major floodings. In early May of this year, the river overflowed leaving more than 2,500 affected and most of them without potable water, according to El Tiempo. Nearly the same situation occurred in 2015 and 2017.

Each time, according to national media, community members ask the local and national level governments, and the National Disaster Risk Management Unit for help to mitigate the problem, but no long-term solution has been implemented. Many in the region say they feel abandoned by the government.

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