Trinidad residents are joining in the effort to keep the floodwaters at bay [Reuters]

The Bolivian government has declared severe flooding in the east of the country a national disaster, after flood waters rose, threatening to burst dikes protecting the city of Trinidad.

Tent cities have been set up in and around Trinidad, about 500 km (310 miles) northeast of the capital, La Paz, to house those affected by the waters.

At least 50 people have been killed and 43,000 affected in Bolivia's eastern lowlands since November, according to officials.

The government declaration was made after Evo Morales, the president, was criticised by eastern state governors who had accused him of responding slowly to the floods.

Morales himself has hit back at the governors for campaigning for greater autonomy from the central government even while large areas of their states are flooded.

"If the dike breaks or is surpassed by floodwater, the disaster would be unfathomable," Moises Shiriqui, Trinidad's mayor, said on Monday.

Water threat

The government move would free more government funds to confront a crisis his government has linked to global climate change.

Francisca Ferrufino, a Trinidad resident, said she and six relatives had to flee their house nearly a month ago when flooding began to affect the city's outskirts.

"There are many people who are sick right now with colds and diarrhea because of the polluted water and because they're still trying to gets their things out from inside (flooded homes)," Ferrufino told the Reuters agency.

Patuju, a local radio station, reported that officials believed the waters covering parts of the dike around Trinidad would stop rising in the next two or three days.

About 80,000 sq km (30,890 sq miles) are under water in the Bolivian Amazonian province of Beni, an area roughly the size of Austria.

Source: Agencies