ASUNCION – Asuncion’s military bases have been transformed into refuges for families that had to abandon their homes because of the flooding of the rising Paraguay River, and who now find shelter there in flimsy huts of wood and sheet metal.
The overflowing Paraguay River, still well below the 8 meters (23 feet) that sets off an evacuation alert, has left more than 25,000 people homeless, thousands of families that mostly come from the Bañado Sur district, better known as Tacumbu, according to figures from the municipality.
In that neighborhood, 2,478 families carried away as much of their belongings as they could to find a temporary shelter on higher ground while waiting for the river level to go down.
Of those families, 1,264 now live on the 4 hectares (10 acres) of the First Infantry Division base, just a few meters (yards) from their former homes, emergency management professional Jorge Blanco told EFE.
There, watched by armed forces personnel, the new residents put up huts measuring some 8x6 meters, and try to get on with their lives inside the military base.
“There’s a rule about coexistence that allows the sale of food products. What is prohibited are alcoholic beverages, gambling and dangerous drugs,” Blanco said.
Some of the huts, besides serving as a roof over the homeless, also serve as small food stores where one can buy anything from empanadas to detergents in order to carry on with the daily routine.
Life, however difficult, goes on at this improvised campground where the new arrivals carefully turn wood and sheet metal into their new homes, while those who have been here longer, maybe 15 days, hang their clothes at the door of their huts or relax in makeshift chairs.
There are also swings saved from the floods in Bañado Sur and now provide a little fun for the kiddies, while some have managed to install little swimming pools to cool off in the hot Paraguayan summer.
Bathing is more complicated, since there are only 58 bathrooms on these 4 hectares, according the Emergency Management Secretariat, which works with Paraguay’s Sanitary Services Company and the National Electricity Administration to install showers and water faucets.
Cleanliness is of great concern on the military base, above all because its proximity to the water and the accumulation of garbage could attract mosquitoes that are vectors of the dengue and zika diseases.