Bogota‘s interim mayor Clara Lopez Obregon made the announcement after heavy rains in the early hours of Wednesday morning caused Bogota River to overflow for the second time in a week. Local fireman Jaime Muñoz told Colombia’s Tele Sur that there is a real risk that “water levels may continue to increase” as the heavy rains continue.
The river’s water volume has reached record levels — 64cm above that which is needed to issue a red alert — flooding more than 700 farms in the surrounding areas.
In the residential area of Engativa, 30 houses, a college, and a key transport bridge have all been flooded, as has the region north of Bogota’s international El Dorado airport.
The region’s sewer system has also collapsed, with authorities unable to begin repairs until water levels subside.
Mayor Lopez said the emergency plan aims “to guarantee attention to the health, evacuation, and care of the families affected,” though details have yet to be released about what will happen to the huge numbers of homeless in the immediate future.
The state of emergency applies to the whole of Bogota, due to the risk of flooding and landslides from the downpours. Mayor Lopez confirmed that more than 50,000 people in Bogota have already been affected.
Authorities have asked the communities in the surrounding areas to remain vigilant, and to follow instructions that are issued by emergency services.
In particular, it is thought that it may be necessary to conduct preventative evacuations in certain areas, and to consider permanent evacuations of other areas that are located on flood-prone land.
The flooding and destruction of homes caused by unprecedented rainfalls this rainy season have forced authorities to begin formulating long-term plans for the residential areas and major transport routes around Bogota River.