Thousands of villagers stranded in Suriname

Publié: 12 mai 2006 0:00 CET

Allison Ali

Thousands of villagers in remote Suriname are stranded by flooding and there are fears that they do not have access to food and other supplies.

Torrential rains have flooded the entire south and parts of the central Amazonian Lowlands of Suriname. Up to 175 thatched-hut villages have been submerged under as much as two metres of muddy water and some are so badly flooded that only the hut roofs can be seen from the air.

The affected districts include Sipaliwini and Brokopondo, where most of the inhabitants are descendants of West African slaves known as Maroons. These villagers started to flee to higher grounds when the rains started at the beginning of May. Some 25,000 people have been directly affected.

Suriname Red Cross staffs are now carrying out situation and needs assessments in the affected areas. “We have teamed up with the police, military, fire brigade and medical personnel and are travelling to the remote hinterlands hit hardest by rain-swollen rivers,” explained Glen Wijngaarde, Director General of the Suriname Red Cross.

“This is the first time the Suriname Red Cross has had to deal with such major flooding,” he continued. “I cannot remember the last time we had flooding in Suriname. We are working very closely with the National Co-ordination Centre for Disaster Management. They did the first assessment of damage and needs and we have been basing our response on that.”

The Suriname Red Cross has set up a disaster fund and is currently providing food, water and medicine to some of the villagers. It will also provide shelter and transport if necessary. “Right now, the villagers are in no immediate danger and the situation is currently quite calm,” said Glen. “We are monitoring the situation and will start evacuating if people are in danger.”

There have been no major evacuations as yet but the government has set up two temporary shelters should the need arise. The closest shelter is about 100 kilometres south of the capital of Paramaribo.

The International Federation Pan-American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) based in Panama has already deployed disaster management delegate
Thomas Doyle to conduct assessments. It will also deploy goods and other human resources when requested.

According to Thomas, only 60 people have so far been evacuated from the south-eastern side of the country. The water had started to subside but has started to flood again following heavy rainfall. He is currently meeting with the Ministries, the National Co-ordination Centre for Disaster Management and other organisations to see how the Red Cross can assist.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is on standby to release CHF 100,000 of Disaster Relief Emergency Funds as well as human resources if the situations worsens.