ASUNCION – Close to 25,000 Asuncion residents who were forced to evacuate their homes in last December’s floods have returned home after the river level dropped below 4 meters (13 feet).
Based on that information, the capital’s emergency management agency estimates that Operation Return, launched a week ago, has brought 40 percent of the more than 60,000 still displaced persons back to their homes, Anibal Arias, a member of that agency, told EFE.
Despite that, some 40,000 people are still living in flimsy wooden and sheet-metal shelters in parks and squares, on downtown streets and other public spaces, as well as on military premises.
Some shelters, such as the ones in Expopar Plaza in the Republicano neighborhood of Asuncion, have been all but abandoned, and the municipality’s work now consists mainly of cleaning the place up and removing the rubble to rehabilitate the park, Arias said.
The technician admits that in this area the generally upper-middle-class residents frequently called on the municipal government to evict from the neighborhood’s squares those left homeless by the floods, who had mostly moved in from the capital’s poorer neighborhoods.
In other spaces, like the Pablo Rojas Sports Club’s clay tennis courts in the same neighborhood, more than 1,000 people sought shelter between December and January, when the cresting of the Paraguay River reached a critical level at a height of 7.88 meters (26 feet) as it poured through Asuncion and submerged tens of thousands of homes.
Today a scant three families are left on the clay court, and they are getting ready to leave as well.
Such was the case of Leticia Cabral of the riverside neighborhood of Caacupemi, who on Friday, after nine months in a shanty, was knocking down its wall and roof, careful not to damage the materials since, she said, you never know when you’ll need them if the river overflows again.
She said that once she returned home, she would have to connect the electricity, access the drinking water and other services interrupted by the floods, as well as clean away the mud and waste the river washed onto the patio of her house.
The municipality is helping with these tasks, along with cleaning the streets and channeling the streams, since entire neighborhoods were left devastated following three straight floods, with the last in December being the worst since 1982, according to Arias.