A man crosses a flooded street in El Porvenir, southern Colombia, Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. Torrential rains have caused devastating floods and widespread damage in the country for much of the past two years. Meteorologists blame the rains on La Nina, a disruption in weather patterns related to low surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific. (AP Photo/Carlos Julio Martinez)
The overflowing of the Bogotá River as a result of recent torrential rains has left some neighborhoods of the Colombian capital so deep in water that its inhabitants are getting around in homemade boats.
In fact some streets of Bogotá look like Venetian canals with water over 1 meter (3 feet) deep.
Locals paddle along in homemade boats constructed with planks and floats to save their possessions in such areas as the El Recreo neighborhood in the southwestern Bogotá district of Bosa.
For several days Bosa inhabitants have not been able to open the doors of their houses without a torrent of evil-smelling sewage water pouring inside, submerging everything in its path.
The problem gets worse for those living in buildings along the Bogotá River, constructed on landfills where the river used to run and where "one is forever bailing out water, only to have it pour back in," one of the locals, Cesar Montoya, told Efe.
Unlike Montoya, who decided to stay home though he can't even cook a meal because of gas and electricity outages, others like Luz Estela Valencia chose to camp out in a nearby park on higher ground.
"We woke up here today, we've been staying here since last night because we can't get into our homes they're so flooded - you can't live there, it smells disgusting and the water is up to your waist," Valencia, who is demanding that authorities provide more tents and air beds, told Efe.
Those camping out take turns guarding the group's homes and belongings at night, because chaos tends to attract thieves and looting.
"They nabbed two people making off with a washing machine. Yesterday they caught three robbers there - one of them was underwater," Montoya said, recalling that another burglar was surprised leaping from one roof to the next, and of course there were some crooks in disguise wearing Civil Defense uniforms.
Other residents chose to leave their homes and take with them any household goods that survived the flood, like Luis Alberto Barrios and his family, who were moving mattresses, appliances and furniture to another house they had rented far from the river.
"Why build these homes on a river?" Barrios asked, and described how filthy the water was - "It's foul" - and demanded to know whose fault it was.
Bosa's everyday routines have been totally changed since most of the stores have been closed for almost a week, with the exception of some taking advantage of the disaster to sell sanitary masks, rubber boots and other items to help people get through the emergency.
According to the FOPAE emergency management agency, the homes of 45,196 people have been flooded in Bosa and the nearby town of Ciudad Kennedy, and more than 500 vehicles are underwater.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Bogotá Mayor Clara López visited the area Friday and announced the provision of 1.5 million pesos ($777) to every family in the census there, as well as a tax break for property, businesses and vehicles to the amount of damages suffered.
Nonetheless, for some of the homeless this aid does not make up for losing everything, and they consider insufficient the vaccination campaigns and medical attention offered by doctors in Bogotá hospitals to victims with symptoms of anxiety, panic and stomach problems.