By Alberto Peña
Asuncion, Jan 22 (EFE).- Inhabitants of Los Bañados, riverside districts on the banks of the Paraguay River in Asuncion, were hurrying Monday to evacuate to higher ground, in order to escape the floods that for a week have submerged hundreds of homes and have forced almost 20,000 residents to seek refuge elsewhere.
Homes on lower ground in Los Bañados, on both the north and south sides of the capital, are now uninhabited and underwater, and their owners have been evacuated to municipal and military properties in the higher areas, where many have built themselves flimsy hovels of sheet metal and wood.
Those still living in their homes have spent a week watching the water slowly but incessantly rising day after day, a few centimeters (around an inch) every 24 hours.
For the past 15 days the water of the Paraguay River has been flooding these districts to the extent that their streets are now impassable.
On the south side, the Tacumbu neighborhood has suffered the worst damage from the cresting Paraguay River, which according to local emergency management authorities reached a height Monday of 5.7 meters (19 feet), 2 centimeters (3/4 of an inch) more than Sunday, increasing last month’s rate of cresting when the water level rose 2 meters.
More than 8,000 people have now been evacuated from the south side of Asuncion while others were loading trucks with furniture and other belongings in order to get away as fast as possible, in view of forecasts that the river will keep rising and that there will probably be storm warnings during the week.
Almost 20,000 people have now been affected by the floods, a number that municipal authorities increase every day as a result of the continued rising of the water level.
On the north side, the situation is similar, though the sandy streets have largely disappeared under a blanket of muddy water that drowns everything it touches.
In that area, which extends 1 kilometer upriver, the number of evacuees is more than 7,500, and those still living there are all getting ready for their eventual move to higher ground.