An estimated 12.000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Uruguay where record rainfall has caused extensive flooding leaving several counties with no electricity or drinking water.
According to Uruguay's Emergencies Office most of evacuees have been lodged in public buildings, schools and gymnasiums in higher ground or with relatives, and the different government offices are supplying food, blankets, diapers and medicines. "So far there have been no tragedies since evacuation and logistics support has been well coordinated by the Army and police forces. However, damage to crops and cattle is extensive and over 100.000 people's jobs have been directly affected by the phenomenon", reported on Wednesday the Government House press office in Montevideo. An estimated 3.500 of the evacuees are children. Since several pumping stations have had to cease operations because of overflowing rivers and streams sanitary officials are recommending water should be boiled before drinking. People wishing to return to their homes have been warned about possible electricity hazards. Although most people have shown great solidarity with those forced to leave their homes and donations have literally "flooded" emergency centers, the dark side is that in some places some people have moved to the second floor refusing to abandon their homes because of looting by night raiders in boats. In four weeks in several counties of Uruguay covering a third of the territory rainfall has been equivalent to the whole annual average. This has caused extensive damage to crops, mainly soybeans, which were ready to be harvested and to sheep, thousands have drowned, and to cattle herds that have been surrounded by water and have little forage. The impact of the exceptional rainfall has been also felt in Montevideo and main urban areas with a shortage of fresh vegetables and fruit supplies and soaring prices. According to Uruguay's meteorological office forecast, which wasn't very efficient in anticipating the volume of precipitations, no further major rainfall is expected and an extreme cold front from Antarctica is heading for the River Plate. The good side of the abundant rainfall is that hydroelectric dams are again full and spilling over, and should help end a two years severe energy shortage. However lack of coordination between the government's Met office and Energy company has worsened flooding since dams kept accumulating water until they were forced to open their locks flooding downstream towns and villages.