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A darker side of Paraguay flooding: isolation of elderly

PARAGUAY FLOODS | 21 de mayo de 2019

By Carlos Villar Ortiga

Asuncion, May 21 (efe-epa).- The isolation of the elderly is one of the consequences of the flooding that in recent months has decimated entire neighborhoods in Paraguay's capital of Asuncion due to the rise in the Paraguay River, flooding that has displaced thousands of families from their homes in the city and in other parts of the country.

That is the case with Emilia Patiño, 99, who has been staying with her family for three months in her home in the flooded Bañado Tacumbu district, given that her advanced age prevents her from being taken to one of the rudimentary public shelters established in Asuncion by the only means available: canoe.

Since the river has been rising, inundating streets near her house, Patiño has remained at home using a lantern for lighting because the flooding has cut off electric power in her neighborhood.

Her family decided to cancel her evacuation due to her delicate health, given that she's taking medication to control hypertension, and due to the poor living conditions in the public shelters, where she would not be able to have her own bathroom.

However, her son, Candido Arce, has been working for the last three days to build a hut out of plywood in the 1st Infantry Division's camp in Asuncion, where thousands of displaced families are being housed in shacks.

Arce told EFE that they still have not received any aid from the government to alleviate the effects of the water and he must pay out of his own pocket for the "pills" his mother needs to keep her blood pressure down.

For Arce, the flooding has brought "misery," since he had to give up his job in the "recycling" sector as a result of the rainy weather.

Meanwhile, the family uses their canoe to make five or six trips each day to the store or to access public services.

Patiño's great-grandson Jorge Jesus Arce, 13, is in charge of paddling the little canoe on the daily trips, and he has had to stop attending school this past month to be available to help his family.

Jorge told EFE that he is tired of the situation because "it's not fun" to have to "go out by water to do things" and run the risk of being bitten by some animal or other.

"I'm afraid, and so I use boots. There are lot of vipers," he said.

Although he had to quit school temporarily, he still goes each weekend to the military camp, where most of his friends are being housed, to play soccer.

The Tacumbu neighborhood, located right next to the Paraguay River, is one of the capital's poorest sectors and more than 12,800 of the families there have been displaced by flooding in recent months.

The river's water level, which rises and falls according to the season every year, on Tuesday reached 7.34 meters (over 24 feet), approaching the "catastrophe" level that weather authorities have set at 8 meters.

Locals tell EFE that this is some of the worst flooding in recent years and reminds them of the flooding in 1983, which also wiped out many neighborhoods close to the river in Asuncion.

The flooding forced the government to declare an emergency for more than 13,400 kilometers (8,300 miles) of Paraguay's roads and urgently invest $15 million to repair them and provide access to communities that had become isolated.

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