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More than 35 people were declared dead or missing after torrential rains pummeled seven of nine departments throughout Bolivia, resulting in flooding and mudslides that uprooted at least 32,000 families. The downpours caused an estimated $30 million in damages, which included 10,000 hectares of crops.
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, “rising waters of the Ichilo and Grande rivers in Santa Cruz Department and the Bermejo River in Tarija Department have obstructed roads, destroyed houses and crops and led to evacuations.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that several towns were completely submerged in the Department of Cochabamba and large portions of highway collapsed.
In addition, newspapers across Bolivia reported several rivers that overflowed their banks, which inundated the homes of several hundred Bolivians, forcing them to seek shelter elsewhere.
Others around the country were left without safe drinking water from the continuing storms. The World Health Organization warned about a Dengue Fever outbreak in Cochabamba and an outbreak of the Hanta virus, which has already killed two people.
Although aid was promised to the small nation, it was slow to arrive. A little less than a week after Bolivian President Evo Morales declared the country a national emergency, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela donated helicopters and planes to help deliver food and supplies to stranded citizens.
According to official numbers, this year’s floods are worse than those that occurred around the same time last year, which left more than 13 people dead and displaced over 30,000 families.
Even though flooding is an annual occurrence, government officials reported that the rainy season this year has been exacerbated by the climatic phenomenon known as La Niña. This weather pattern brings heavy rains and flooding due to decreased ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.
In a statement by ABI, the Bolivian Information Agency, Mr. Morales blamed the capitalist system for contaminating the planet and the natural disasters that have resulted.
“Mother Earth (or the Pachamama according to native Aymara tradition) is injured to death because of these policies of over industrialization,” he said in the Bolivian newspaper Los Tiempos.
Heavy rains are expected to linger as Bolivian officials continue their search for victims.