By Claire Rivé, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Madeira River, which runs through Porto Velho, Rondônia in western Brazil, has reached a record water level of 18.73 meters and is still climbing today. The flooding has almost completely isolated the area in the upper Amazon River basin, as the BR-364 highway, the only land-link with the rest of the country, had to be closed on Monday and very few vehicles are able to make their way through the rising water.
With heavy rains still forecast in Bolivia this week and the direct impact this rainfall is expected to have on the level of the Madeira River, there seems to be no immediate relief in sight, predicted Lieutenant Colonel Denargli Costa Farias of the Fire Department of Rondônia.
More than 2,000 families are currently affected by the flooding and 43 shelters in Porto Velho and other districts have been opened to those in need. In the areas of San Carlos and Nazareth, all residents had to evacuate their homes. The National Secretariat for Civil Protection and Defense sent 500 tents with ten person capacities to Rondônia, which will be installed in the middle and lower Madeira region, according to Colonel Farias.
Farias said, “Rescue teams and aid are in constant work, coordinating the shelters, the food distributions and verifying the status and security of flooded homes,” adding, “They [ the homeless ] also want to know how their homes are, their property, but we have to maintain discipline within the shelter and increasingly improve care.”
Large vehicles can still travel on the BR-364, linking Rondônia and Acre, which is being constantly monitored by the Federal Highway Police and the National Department of Transport Infrastructure.
On Saturday National Air Force aircraft brought 26 tons of food and medicine to Rio Branco and on Sunday, army trucks also transported sixty tons of wheat flour to the state, a product that’s supply was already depleted. The Army has provided four vehicles with raised suspension, capable of carrying fifteen ton loads across stretches of the highway.
Governor of Acre, Tião Viana reportedly met with his team in the situation room of the Fire Department to discuss the prevention of shortages in their neighboring state and is working hard to support Rondônia by keeping goods moving into the afflicted areas.
A Navy ship for Hospital Assistance, the Oswaldo Cruz, is docked in Porto Velho to support medical, dental and vaccination care. Three doctors, three dentists, a pharmacist and six nurses and a supporting crew of fifty are on board.
The river’s water level now exceeds its previous record level of 17.52 meters, which was recorded during the Madeira River’s last flood in 1997, by more than a full meter. According to the state government, the Acre River is at low tide, but no operation to return families to their homes is planned at this time.
On February 28th, the federal government recognized the emergency situation in municipalities of the state of Acre affected by floods. They also authorized the transfer of R$2.2 million for relief efforts, assistance to victims and restoration of essential services in the state.