Paraguayan Armed Forces Assist Civilians Impacted by ‘El Niño’ Floods

Paraguayan Armed Forces Assist Civilians Impacted by  ‘El Niño’ Floods

By Geraldine Cook
January 22, 2016

Paraguay’s Armed Forces are providing humanitarian aid to the communities affected by severe flooding nationwide.

Paraguay’s Army, Navy, and Air Force (FAP) have responded to the severe flooding nationwide by providing humanitarian aid to affected communities, including the city of Alberdi, which has been turned into an island only accessible by air or water.

In December and January, heavy rains caused floods in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and southern Brazil. Since mid-2015, meteorologists have warned that the El Niño
phenomenon could bring unusually wet weather to these countries.

“Paraguay has been one of the hardest-hit countries,” explained Colonel Jorge Mieres, spokesperson for the Paraguayan Armed Forces, in an interview with Diálogo
. “The impact of El Niño
, on top of the unusually heavy rainy season since November, has left 80,000 persons displaced at the beginning of 2016.”

The Armed Forces were ready to respond to the crisis, as preparation for an emergency or a disaster is a crucial component of an effective response. Members of the Paraguayan Armed Forces “receive training from partner nations, such as the United States, Colombia, Peru, and Chile, because at the end we do not need to discard the new threat to the world posed by climate change to bring humanitarian aid to persons domestically or internationally,” Col. Mieres added.

Rapid deployment

When the Paraguay River’s water levels began to rise quickly in December, the Armed Forces deployed 400 service members throughout the country to help civilians affected by the flooding. On December 25th, President Horacio Cartes declared a nationwide state of emergency.

“The Armed Forces are the institutions that have the most personnel ready to carry out the logistical measures and take prompt action when these catastrophes occur,” Col. Mieres stated. “In less than 24 hours, we were in a position to fulfill the aid mission assigned to us by the state.” From December 25th-January 8th, service members from the Army, FAP, Navy, and the Logistics Command – in conjunction with the National Emergency Department (SEN, for its Spanish acronym) – launched intensive, integrated Military operations.

The Armed Forces were joined by other governmental agencies in responding to the flooding crisis. For example, the Ministry of Public Works and Communication, the National Electricity Administration, and the Paraguayan Sanitation Services Corporation, as well as the affected municipalities and local governments, conducted their own humanitarian efforts.

Each branch of the Military participated in the emergency response. The FAP Air Group and Special Transport Air Group completed 373 flight hours helping civilians affected by the flooding, according to the Armed Forces. FAP service members carried out 161 missions aboard helicopters and C-208B and C-206 aircraft as they evacuated civilians and transported food, medical supplies, and plastic tents.

Meanwhile, the Navy deployed 45 transport vehicles, including 25-, 40-, and 90 horsepower speedboats, R-5 patrol boats, and trucks. The Navy Command provided free medical attention on board P-05 ship Itaipu, which was deployed to the city of Alberdi so crew members could respond quickly to emergencies in the region. A team of Marine divers performed plumbing repairs on the potable water system that was damaged by the floods in the district of Nanawa. They also checked the containment walls in the cities of Pilar and Alberdi, south of the Paraguayan capital of Asunción.

Army units such as the First Infantry Division, “Aca Caraya” 4th Cavalry Regiment, Infantry School, Second Army Corps, and the Second Cavalry Division provided medical treatment and other assistance to 15,399 people. Meanwhile, the Army Headquarters Command, the Communications Command, Corps of Engineers, Military Educational Institutions Command, Army Officer Advanced Studies School, and the Peacekeeping Operations Training Institute are all engaging in humanitarian efforts.

Extreme flooding

At the end of December, the Paraguay River’s water level approached 10 meters. “The speed of the water is impressive,” Col. Mieres said. “The floods this year exceeded the statistics on record for the river’s level.”

Although the rains were not as strong in the middle of January, the Armed Forces remain vigilant. “In spite of the pause in the rains during the second week of January, the emergency remains,” Col. Mieres added. “There are latent risks that could be caused by a potential break in the containment wall. The Armed Forces are ready and prepared for any event that could happen.”

On January 15th, President Cartes instructed service members to intensify all of their efforts to assist flood victims. “When the civilian population needs help, the Armed Forces become the populace’s right arm,” Col. Mieres said. “The Armed Forces are prepared to face catastrophic contingencies: strong, tornado level winds; heavy rains; severe floods; and prolonged droughts. These are the new challenges from natural disasters.”

International assistance

Partner nations also stepped up to help Paraguayans impacted by the flooding. On January 13th, the Peruvian government donated more than 15,900 kilograms of food. The aid arrived on a Military plane and was delivered to the SEN before it was distributed to the affected population. Paraguayan Minister of Foreign Affairs Eladio Loizaga expressed gratitude on behalf of President Cartes for Peru’s gesture of solidarity, acknowledging that Peruvians were also suffering from the El Niño
phenomenon’s effects.

The United States Agency for International Development, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, gave SEN 5,000 zinc roofs – collectively worth about $50,000 – for families affected by the floods. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) allocated $100,000 to assist SEN in emergencies and support the development of early recovery plans.

“The funds allocated by UNPD will support efforts to coordinate the work led by SEN with its humanitarian partners – international cooperation – with a view to organizing the actions and involvement of the central and local actors, in addition to providing support for the affected families’ recovery process,” according to the SEN.
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