Uruguay

UN disaster officials begin aid assessments in flood-ravaged Uruguay

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United Nations disaster assessment officials are on the ground in Uruguay, determining what aid is needed to help the thousands of people forced to flee their homes after the worst floods to strike the country in almost half a century.

The UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, as well as officials from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are carrying out rapid assessments in Durazno, Soriano and Treinta y Tres departments.

Télécoms Sans Frontières, a non-governmental organization (NGO), is also helping with assessments, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.

Preliminary reports indicate that local authorities are providing enough food, water and medicines to meet emergency needs, while UN agencies operating in the country have also bought supplies such as blankets, mattresses and health and sanitation items.

Although flood levels have receded in some areas, allowing people to return to their homes, the waters are still so high in many places that a comprehensive assessment of the damage to housing and other infrastructure remains impossible.

About 12,000 people were evacuated at the peak of the floods, which followed several days of torrential rainfall across Uruguay. At the height of the downpour, some 350 millimetres of rain fell in just 48 hours starting on 5 May.

The Uruguayan Government estimates that 110,000 people have been affected in nine of the Latin American country's 19 departments. The three hardest-hit departments stretch across the centre of Uruguay.