Author`s name Alex Naumov

Floods kill 40 in Bolivia

Torrential rains and floods have already killed 40 people in Bolivia since November, as infrastructure of the country is on the verge of collapse. According to official reports heavy rains will continue this week causing more destruction to crops, highways and homes.

President Evo Morales has asked for aid from neighboring countries to meet the food and medical needs of the more than 32,000 families affected by the flooding. Brazil and Chile have sent helicopters to help in rescue efforts, while the U.S. Army South sent a Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team this week to survey the damage caused by flooding.

According to official reports about 400,000 people living in the Andean city of La Paz have been forced to ration their drinking water after mudslides damaged water pipes last week, and the mayor said the shortages could last until March.

In eastern Santa Cruz province, the head of the local chamber of commerce said the damage to soybean crops and highways was estimated at between $200 million and $500 million, local newspapers reported.

The flooding is blamed on the La Nina weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, which has exacerbated Bolivia's rainy season. The local meteorological service forecast that rains will continue for at least another month.

The phenomenon also affects the North of neighbour Argentina, where nearly 15,000 people remained isolated in the northern province of Salta. According to specialists, heavy rains will be followed by unusual dry season.

Bolivia’s Government spokesman Alex Contreras said Morales had sent all his cabinet ministers to assess flood damage and help victims in different parts of the country, which is the poorest in South America.

The U.S. army, in turn, has sent a team, which consists of a civil affairs officer, an engineer officer, a medical officer and an aviation plans officer who will augment the U.S. embassy's military group and work with disaster-response personnel already in Bolivia from the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

On Jan. 21 the Bolivian government declared a national state of emergency and has since requested assistance from the international community. Government officials report that the flooding has killed 40 people, affected nearly 25,000 families, and caused more than $30 million in damage. Bolivia's national weather service expects the rains to continue for several more weeks.

Hernan Etchaleco