Over 160,000 people affected by South America flooding

Severe flooding across four countries in South America has driven more than 160,000 people from their homes, media reported Saturday.

Heavy rains in Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have led officials to evacuate tens of thousands of residents, and claimed the lives of at least six people.

The downpours sparked by the El Nino weather phenomenon have affected mostly Paraguay, where some 130,000 people have been relocated to shelters, and President Horacio Cartes has declared a state of emergency.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff Saturday announced 6.6 million reals (1.8 million U.S. dollars) in emergency aid for flood-ravaged communities in southern Brazil.

Rousseff flew over the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which borders Argentina and Uruguay, and where some 8,000 people have been displaced by rising waters.

In Argentina, nearly 20,000 people have been driven from their homes and at least one person has died in a flood-related incident, according to reports.

The Argentinean Ministry of Defense said the military was helping to distribute daily food rations to communities isolated by the flooding.

Argentinean President Mauricio Macri, who took office earlier this month, also toured the worst-hit areas on Saturday.

Argentina’s Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio said, “if we manage to spend this weekend without rains, we will begin the week being more calm.”

Five people have been killed in the floods in different locations, including four people in Paraguay and a young boy in Argentina who was electrocuted.

By Christmas Eve, one of South America’s main rivers, the Paraguay, which runs through Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, had risen 7.71 meters, Argentina’s Telam news agency reported, citing Victor Peralta, director of emergency and disaster management for the city of Asuncion.

“Peralta did not rule out the river continuing to rise and with it the number of evacuees,” Telam said.

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