Rivers of trash flood the streets. Cats, dogs, chickens and hogs are stranded on rooftops. Over 15,000 people are displaced. The rains keep adding to the flooding in Paraguay and water levels keep rising, pushing people out of their homes and into improvised campsites in plazas and parks. The Red Cross estimates that over 200,000 people have been affected by the heavy flooding. The persistent deluge is destroying crops, hindering transportation and compromising homes.
The areas most affected are those that border the Paraguay and Paraná Rivers, specifically the departments of Ñeembucú, Alto Parana, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay. Officials report that water levels have risen almost seven feet above normal. If the rivers continue to rise and overflow the surrounding areas, Paraguay will be face to face with an environmental disaster.
The waters have already overwhelmed the Cateura trash dump-slum, which is home to the famous Landfill Harmonic Orchestra, whose characteristic instruments are crafted from salvaged materials found in the garbage dump. The floodwaters are carrying waste throughout the already polluted streets of Paraguay.
Residents of the Chacarita, an impoverished barrio nestled between Asunción’s commercial center and the Paraguay River, have had to leave their homes and relocate to tent camps on higher ground. Many families had to leave their pets behind, representing an emotional and economic loss. Not only cats and dogs, but also chickens, ducks, hogs and horses are left to fend for themselves amid the rising waters.
Paraguayan officials have issued an environmental alert over floodwaters approaching a dumpsite for toxic waste. The Congress and Senate are working on allocating $1 million to contamination prevention, and the Paraguayan government has already provided $3 million in food aid to assist displaced families.
The Paraguay Red Cross is heavily involved with relief efforts and water sanitation, in coordination with the government of Paraguay. The U.N. has also assisted with disaster assessments.
Red Cross disaster management delegate Omar Robinson states, “Our main concerns are focused on what will happen tomorrow when the population sees the receding waters and realize there are no crops left and the State will have to at some point suspend distribution of food aid. This can cause a serious crisis for the population.”
– Kayla Strickland