Flooding in the department of Florida in the south of Uruguay has displaced almost 2,000 people after the Santa Lucía Chico River reached record highs.

Floods in Florida Department, Uruguay, March 2024. Photo:. SINAE

Six temporary evacuation centres have been set up to house those displaced. The hardest hit areas are in the city of Florida, departmental capital.

Local officials said 120 mm of rain fell in the city of Florida in 24 hours to 21 March 2024. This comes after an earlier period of rain that began around 14 March which also caused flooding in the city and forced almost 300 people to evacuate.

The latest bout of rain caused the Santa Lucía Chico River which runs along the outskirts of the city to jump to record highs. As of 21 March, officials reported the Santa Lucía Chico River stood at 10.56 metres, beating the previous high by 1.2 metres.

In a statement to local media, Guillermo Lopez, governor of Florida department, said that flooding has caused devastation, inundating hundreds of homes forcing residents to evacuate. No injuries or fatalities have been reported, however.

The whole of the city has been left without access to drinking water due to the impact of the flooding on the water treatment plant. Numerous roads are under water, causing widespread traffic disruption.

The swollen river has also flooded the Piedra Alta Bridge, hampering access to the city. According to local media reports, this is the first time the bridge has been under water in its 100 year history.

Flooding forced the closure of the Piedra Alta Bridge, the entrance to the Florida city, Uruguay. Photo: Government of Florida Department

5,000 Displaced in 9 Departments

Stormy weather from late 20 March 2024 brought strong winds and heavy rain to other parts of the country, according to officials from Uruguay’s emergency agency, Sistema Nacional de Emergencias (SINAE).

As of 21 March, almost 5,000 people were displaced from their homes in the departments of Canelones (606 people displaced), Cerro Largo, Colonia (760 people displaced), Durazno, Florida, Paysandú, Rivera, Rocha and San José (1,298 people displaced). Over 40,000 people were without electricity.

Significant rainfall totals were recorded in a 24-hour period from 20 to 21 March 2024:

  • Río Branco in Cerro Largo: 154.0 mm
  • José P. Varela in Lavalleja: 140.0 mm
  • Nueva Helvecia in Colonia: 138.0 mm
  • Ecilda Paullier in San José: 135.0 mm
  • Reboledo in Florida: 134.0 mm

Severe Weather in Uruguay in Early to Mid-March 2024

March 2024 has seen a series of storms and a period of severe weather in Uruguay.

Flash flooding impacted the capital, Montevideo, twice during this period. As much as 58.4 mm of rain fell in 1 hour on 02 March 2024, flooding streets in the city. A similar event occurred in the city after a storm from 11 to 12 March. Firefighters and Civil Defence teams carried out over 300 interventions.

SINAE reported on 14 March that wider areas of the country were affected by severe weather including strong winds and heavy rain, prompting evacuations. As of 18 March, officials reported 1,049 people were displaced across 4 departments: 147 in Canelones, 285 in Florida, 5 in Río Negro, 582 in San José and 30 in Soriano.

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