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Dozens of villages in Suriname are waiting for help after unprecedented floods – Science-Environment News – Report by AFR

A boat weaves between the tin roofs of houses in Baling Sula, one of numerous villages in central Suriname hit by devastating floods.

Heavy rains since January caused rivers to burst their banks in the small South American nation, forcing state-owned power company Staatsolie Power Company Suriname to open scuppers at a hydroelectric power station in early March to avoid an even bigger disaster.

This in turn led to the flooding of several villages in the Brokopondo district, around 100 kilometers south of the capital Paramaribo.

The water has yet to recede.

More than 3,000 households in seven districts are affected, but also shops, farms and schools.

Recently, Elsy Poeketie, 48, who fled to the capital to stay with her daughter, showed her granddaughter pictures and video of her hotel, the Bonanza River resort, which until three months ago had a beautiful sandy beach, cabins and a recreation hall in the outdoors.

“Now everything is flooded, two to three meters high in some places. No beach, just water everywhere you look,” she sighed.

“It really hurts and stresses me out. Where am I supposed to get the money to renovate?”

In the flooded village of Asigron, Patricia Menig has taken care of her brother while her sister lives with an aunt after their two houses were flooded.

“The water started to rise on April 12 and within a week her house was four to five meters full of water,” she told AFP by phone.

And Menig lost the entire crop on her 1.5 hectare agricultural property, leaving her with no income.

“Many of us are now dependent on government aid,” she said.

– Waiting for the dry season –

Last month, Suriname President Chan Santokhi declared seven of the country’s ten districts disaster zones and asked international partners for help.

China donated $50,000 on Tuesday and the Netherlands, former colonial power Suriname, pledged 200,000 euros through UNICEF.

Nearby Venezuela, which has been ravaged by years of economic crisis, nevertheless delivered 40,000 tons of goods, including food and medicines, and distribution will start this week.

The dry season is not expected before August and authorities suggested evacuating the area. But many residents chose to stay, and the government provided them with short-term housing.

Remote inland villages are cut off from road traffic and can only be reached by boat or helicopter, making aid distribution even more difficult, said Colonel Jerry Slijngard of the National Disaster Management Coordination Center (NCCR).

A flight from Paramaribo to Kwamalasamutu, an indigenous village near the Brazilian border, costs around US$3,900.

“I can only bring 40 food packages per flight and there are 400 households,” said Slijngard.

– ‘I need money, not food’ –

Some former villagers who now live in the capital have started an education project to help children who are unable to attend school, with funding from a Canadian mining company that is prospecting for gold in the area.

The project produces online videos in Dutch and in the indigenous languages ​​Aucan and Saramaccan.

They also offer USB sticks for those without internet access.

The floods have created other problems, not least a plague of mosquitoes.

And along the border with French Guiana, indigenous Wayana villages that weren’t flooded have still lost 60 percent of their crops after heavy rains soaked the ground and left vegetables to rot, said Jupta Itoewaki of the Wayana Mulokot Kawemhakan Foundation, an advocacy group .

Some Brokopondo residents complain that they are not receiving the help they need.

“I don’t need food packages, my machines can’t eat. I need money,” said furniture maker Amania Nelthan.

Now he sees no other solution than to move.

“Climate change is a fact. Rain and floods will come. Renovation after the floods is not an option. I need to move to a higher level.”

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