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Weekly Updates: Africa | Asia | Latin America

21 December 2010

Latin America Update #8

The above picture is from an area in Valle del Cauca state in Colombia which has been hit by severe flooding. (Luis Robayo / AFP/Getty Images)

The last week brought another round of heavy rains and flooding as more moisture slammed into Colombia and Panama. It has been weeks now since the torrential rains started. Rainfall totals along the continental boundary are now in excess of 600 mm, or 2 feet during the past two weeks. Some of the heaviest rain has fallen in the Darién Gap. The low population of the area should help minimize those impacted, but also will make more difficult sending aid into this area. Some urban parts of Panama have also been affected, but not Panama City. In Colombia it is an entirely different story. Most of the country has been caught in the deluge, with the exception of the sparsely populated areas near the border with Brazil. 1.9 million people, or 5% of the national population, are now displaced. Floods have breached canal levees and killed at least 250 people. Damage to roads, buildings and agriculture is spread across the country, but by far the worst of it is focused in the northwestern part of the country.

Sharply contrasting with Colombia is most of the rest of South America, which has generally been dry. Some locations are managing ok, primarily those in Venezuela, Guyana, and coastal Brazil. Amazonas is posting some of the biggest deficits in South America, and despite receiving a beneficial burst of rainfall, southern Paraguay and nearby parts of Brazil and Argentina have once again dried out. Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay are also showing large deficits. The past seven days have been particularly dry in Bolivia, Paraguay, northern Argentina. In Brazil, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Rondônia have been particularly dry for the last week. As one of the major food producers in the world, South America having a poor harvest will affect food prices, not just on the continent, but globally. The next week will bring more rainfall, but not enough to reverse the current continent-wide trend.

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