ASUNCION – Approximately 90,000 people displaced from their homes by the rising waters of the Paraguay River, most of them from some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, will spend Christmas in rickety shacks they have built along streets and in city squares.
The figure is the latest provided by the capital’s Emergency and Disasters Department, which is cooperating in evacuation efforts with the National Emergency Secretariat, or SEN.
As the river level has risen, so too has the number of refugees, and the watercourse now stands at its highest level in the last 20 years – 7.71 meters (25.3 feet) – above the 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) authorities previously had estimated would be the high point.
The refugees’ situation was complicated on Thursday by a powerful wind- and rainstorm that lashed the capital and the central part of the country, killing four when trees toppled onto the vehicles in which they were traveling.
The storm also caused further flooding, power cuts across much of Asuncion and damage to the roughly 100 shelters the government has provided to house many of the refugees.
It is a similar situation to last year, when the river rose in the same way, displacing 85,000 people in the capital and more than 200,000 elsewhere in the country. Some 10,000 of those people have had to remain in shelters until now because their homes were destroyed.
According to the local Camsat non-governmental organization, some 60 percent of the refugees are children, who will have to spend the holiday in uncertain circumstances, many of them without presents.