More than 20,000 families across Paraguay have been affected by severe flooding from two weeks of heavy rain that caused the country's main river to burst its banks, a senior official said Wednesday as an emergency was declared in the capital Asunción.
National Emergency Minister Joaquín Roa made the announcement as forecasters said the precipitation would continue for the rest of the week.
The Paraguay River, which runs some 1,000 kilometers north to south and splits the country in two, is expected to continue overflowing.
A 90-day emergency was declared in Asunción on Wednesday due to the flooding. Hardest-hit are some 5,000 families living in the Banado Sur working-class neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital.
The people affected by flooding "need sheet metal roofing, wood, and all types of help," a municipal official told AFP.
The Paraguay River flows past Asunción and eventually merges into the Paraná River in Argentina.
"We did not expect it to swell so quickly," said Pablo Ramírez, a resident of Banado Sur, a neighborhood in the capital, dismayed after returning to his home after he left it one month ago due to flooding.
Ramírez, who relies on crutches to get around following a car accident, said that he will not leave home this time. The flooding "will go by quickly," he said optimistically.
Pedro Velasco, a leading neighbourhood Catholic priest, said that one week ago they warned emergency officials that the river was about to overflow and asked for trucks to deliver aid and help evacuate people.
"They didn't move until Monday, but by then it was already too late and they couldn't come in" because of the flooding, Velasco said.