ASUNCION – The Paraguayan government offered the 7,000 residents of Alberdi the means to evacuate the city in the face of the danger that it could be flooded by the Paraguay River, authorities told EFE.
The head of the SEN emergency management agency, Joaquin Roa, on Wednesday night issued an urgent communique asking the public to evacuate, saying that the retention wall that protects the city from the river – which on Thursday reached a height of 9.64 meters (31.6 feet) – is “poised to rupture.”
Roa issued his warning via radio and television, saying that if the wall were to burst, it is “almost certain that human lives will be lost.”
The evacuation plan, in which the army is participating, consists of transporting the townspeople to the Argentine city of Formosa along the rain-swollen Paraguay River.
From there, they would be taken in military aircraft to Asuncion, where they would be sheltered on sports ministry property, Carlos Silva, the governor of Ñeembucu province, which includes Alberdi, told EFE.
The evacuation recommendation had been made by SEN on Saturday after the agency, with the advice of Dutch technicians, detected cracks along about 100 meters (yards) of the wall.
However, most local residents rejected the evacuation warnings, an attitude that still prevails, Silva said.
“There is a lot of resistance to leaving, the people have not become aware, they still don’t want to believe that there’s any real danger,” the governor said.
The city is not flooded at present, although it is isolated and surrounded by the river, after six weeks ago rivers throughout the region began rising and flooding parts of the roads linking it to the capital of Asuncion.