ASUNCION – Residents of the Bañados district on the banks of the overflowing Paraguay River continue to battle the waters that since Saturday have flooded their homes and have forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 families from the area.
More than 5,000 people have left their homes and have found shelter on public or military lands, where they have built flimsy hovels of wood and sheet metal, according to the SEN emergency management agency.
Residents of the downtown neighborhood of La Chacarita, next to Asuncion Bay and the Congress building, started packing up Tuesday morning the few belongings and furniture they managed to keep dry after the water started pouring into their homes over the weekend.
Some were still able to rescue refrigerators and mattresses in good condition and carried them on their backs with the water up to their knees as they walked.
Some locals lost their patience and sat around on wooden boxes or improvised bridges on the flooded streets.
Everyone was trying to save whatever they had left, while waiting for the government or the Asuncion municipality to help them.
The mission is to rescue everything possible before the water level rises so much it submerges all the lower part of the district, since the river rose more than 1 meter (3 feet) over the past 10 days, according to data of the National Civil Aeronautics Authority, and is expected to keep rising over the next few days.
In the plaza in front of Congress, located in the higher part of town, several hundred families have already relocated to flimsy huts of wood and sheet metal.
However, those still remaining in the lower part of La Chacarita said they were hurrying to vacate the houses that were not yet affected and to gather up their belongings, since the forecast warns that the river will continue to rise.
Whereas many people in the area had no time to rescue their possessions when the river rose so rapidly following the heavy rains on Saturday night, today they are hunting through the soaked mattresses and floating wood to find something they can save from their flooded houses.
Those affected repeatedly criticized national and municipal authorities and expressed the feeling that they had been abandoned in the absence of emergency management teams that could help them get through the situation.
Some were able to get out of the neighborhood in time and set up impromptu shelters in front of Congress, which has become a kind of neighborhood of huts made of wood, sheet metal and plastic fitted with the refrigerators, washing machines and mattresses that were able to be rescued.