Friday, December 8, 2023

Rain has stopped but swollen river causes severe flooding in Villahermosa

Water released from a dam in Chiapas after heavy rains in recent days continued to cause severe flooding in parts of Villahermosa, Tabasco.

The Grijalva River burst its banks in the Tabasco capital after large amounts of water were released from the Peñitas dam, located in a northwestern Chiapas municipality that borders the Gulf coast state.

Poor neighborhoods in the south of Villahermosa, where rain hasn’t fallen since Friday night, bore the brunt of the flooding on Monday.

Many residents were forced to take shelter on the second floors or roofs of their homes, while others fled on boats with their pets and a few possessions. Some people waded through the floodwaters to reach safe – and dry – ground.

The Gaviotas Sur neighborhood, which is located near the Grijalva River, was especially hard hit. Many of those affected by the flooding blamed the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) for the flooding, accusing the state-owned company of mismanaging the release of water from the Peñitas dam.

Tabasco Governor Adán Augusto López Hernández warned last week that the CFE would be responsible for any flooding caused by an increase in the release of water from the dam after it lobbied the National Committee of Large Dams to do so.

He said Saturday night that 1,300 cubic meters per second were being released from the dam and that the Grijalva had burst its banks near Villahermosa’s riverside promenade.

José Luis Arias, one of many Villahermosa residents affected by the flooding, told the newspaper Reforma that he had heard that water levels were continuing to rise due to the ongoing release of water from the dam, which was inundated with rain brought by two cold fronts and Tropical Storm Eta.

“It hasn’t rained much here but as they’re opening up the dam we’re having these floods,” he said.

Some residents complained that they haven’t received any assistance from authorities despite the dire situation, saying that the army is concentrating its efforts on stopping flooding in the center of Villahermosa.

“The president and the government don’t do anything for us,” said one man as he helped a woman sick with kidney problems navigate the dirty floodwaters.

A flooded street in the Tabasco capital.
A flooded street in the Tabasco capital.

“To save the center of Villahermosa, they [allowed us] to be flooded here,” said Diana Vázquez, a resident of Gaviotas Sur.

Indeed, Governor López said Monday that there was no risk of flooding in the downtown area of the state capital, explaining that water that inundated the nearby riverside promenade had been controlled.

The army, state authorities and civil society organizations sandbagged the promenade wall to prevent further flooding.

“Of course we have to be alert but at the moment the situation at the city promenade is controlled,” López said after inspecting their work.

Flooding has affected 10 of 17 municipalities in Tabasco in recent days, damaging about 60,000 homes and affecting more than 140,000 people.

Flooding in Macuspana, located southeast of Villahermosa, was the worst in at least 50 years, according to local residents.

Tabasco Civil Protection chief Jorge Mier said Monday that six people had drowned in floodwaters in the state including a 6-year-old boy.

Flooding has also affected Chiapas and Veracruz in recent days, affecting tens of thousands of people and homes in the two states.

The heavy rains claimed the lives of at least 22 people in Chiapas, some of whom were killed in landslides.

Source: El Universal (sp), Reforma (sp) 

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