|A view of flooded Cobija, Bolivia [REUTERS]
In Colombia, the rains have continued long after they would normally be expected to dry up, and in Chile, the world’s driest desert was hit by flooding.
On Monday, the Acre River burst its banks, forcing Bolivia to declare a state of emergency. The overflowing river badly flooded the town of Cobija, which lies in the northern province of Pando. 630 families are estimated to have been driven from their homes by the flood water.
Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana visited the flood zone on Monday and expressed concern about the stability of the houses, “The houses are practically coming apart. These are precarious wood homes that right now are submerged in water.”
It’s said to be the worst situation in the flood-prone area in 30 years, and there are now concerns that the water will wash out the border bridge linking Bolivia to Brazil.
March is the end of the rainy season in the region, when the ground is most saturated, so floods are fairly common at this time of year. However, over the past two years the flooding has been more severe than usual, and this is largely thanks to the La Nina phenomenon.
La Nina is the slight cooling of the surface water of the Pacific Ocean. Despite sounding inconsequential, it has a dramatic effect on the weather around the world. One of the impacts that is usually seen in a La Nina year is the excessive amount of rain in the western parts of South America.
The La Nina conditions are expected to subside between March and May, so for the next few weeks at least, the flooding is likely to continue.