Montevideo, Uruguay – The number of displaced persons in Uruguay following the floods that struck four provinces on the country's west coast has risen to 23,571, the National Emergency System, or Sinae, reported Saturday.
The Sinae report says that of all the people who had to leave their homes - a number that has increased slightly over previous reports - 2,322 were evacuated and 21,249 abandoned their dwellings by their own means and did not need government help to do so.
Of the 23,571 displaced persons, 11,002 are in Artigas province, 6,708 in Paysandu, 57 in Rio Negro province and 5,804 in Salto.
Heavy downpours recently caused the Uruguay River to overflow and in particular its Cuareim tributary, which runs through the northern city of Artigas, and up to now the floods have left two people dead, officials said.
According to the Sinae report, the level of the Uruguay River subsided in the city of Artigas - capital of the like-named province - as it did in Salto, while remaining stable in Paysandu.
It also noted that there is hardly any change in the number of displaced persons compared with the previous report.
In the provincial capital of Artigas, the city hardest hit by the floods with 11,002 displaced persons, the Cuareim River reached its highest level last Dec. 23 at 15.28 meters (50 feet), where the safety level is 10.2 meters (33 1/2 feet). The river has currently stabilized below that height.
In fact, Sinae says it continues to keep watch on the situation and to organize residents' return to the city of Artigas.
Meanwhile, the city of Bella Union, also in Artigas province, which at the most recent count had 457 displaced persons, the level of the Uruguay River has now crested to 8.7 meters (28 1/2 feet), more than 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) above the safety level, which is 6.5 meters (21 1/3 feet).
As for the level of the Uruguay River as it runs through Paysandu, it is now at a height of 9.1 meters (30 feet), more than 3 (10) above the safety level, which is 5.5 meters (18 feet).
In Salto, the current has risen to 13.32 meters (43 2/3 feet), where the safety level is established at 12 meters (33 1/3 feet).
Evacuees have been lodged in temporary shelters coordinated by emergency management services, while other displaced persons are staying in private homes or at makeshift campsites.
From the beginning, Sinae has coordinated with provincial authorities to provide evacuees with healthcare and personal hygiene goods along with other necessary items, with a number of NGOs also helping out with the project.
Sinae warned that once river levels are back to normal, "returning home can only be done without risk after the cleaning and disinfection of the affected areas have been carried out," and that "the excessive demands on the healthcare system and the presence of bacteria are other factors that put the health of the population at risk."
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