In Paraguay, more flee worst floods in decades as levee creaks

ASUNCION/BUENOS AIRES, (Reuters) – With further rain looming, more families abandoned their homes yesterday in Paraguay, the country hardest hit by the worst flooding in decades in the area bordering Uruguay and Argentina, which has already forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate.

The El Niño weather phenomenon has exacerbated summer rains, swelling rivers in the region. The River Paraguay, which flows by the country’s capital, Asuncion, has already reached 7.82 meters (25.66 feet), its highest level since 1992.

Around 90,000 people have already left their homes in Asuncion, and are camping in makeshift wood and tin shelters around the city in parks and public spaces or finding refuge in schools and military buildings.

“The water in my house reaches the ceiling; we brought all we could with the help of neighbors and a municipal van,” said Ramona Beltrán, a 42-year-old cook who has been living in an evacuee settlement with 30 other families for two weeks now.

Beltrán said she spent her savings on the material she needed to make herself a new home as government aid had lagged.

“We can’t wait, when it is raining so much,” she said.

In Alberdi, about 120 km (75 miles) further south, authorities have called for 7,000 more people to evacuate because of cracks detected in the town’s levee.

“We are very uncertain about what could happen with the (flood) wall and we do not want to run any type of risk, so the population has been alerted,” said Paraguay’s minister of national emergencies, Joaquín Roa. He said, however, that many people did not want to leave their homes for fear of looting.

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