December 20, 2014
Yacyretá unleashes 50k m3 of water
Despite water levels on the Iguazú River slowly beginning to retreat after several days of heavy rains in northern Argentina and southern Brazil, officials at the Yacyretá hydroelectric dam on the Paraguayan border yesterday decided to open up the floodgates that lead into the Paraná River, allowing 50,000 cubic metres per second of water to flow through — 36,500 more than usual.
The move came on the same day as the huge water flows on the Iguazú River began moving further south, which allowed the Iguazú National Park to reopen to the public. Almost all the walkways in the park were reopened yesterday, although the world-famous Devil’s Throat remained closed.
The decision is causing concern among localities farther along the river in Misiones and Corrientes provinces, where the downpour — which began above the Iguazú basin, located predominately in Brazil — is already having an impact; people living in small localities in Misiones province were being evacuated yesterday, while as far south as Santa Fe City — 468 kilometres from Buenos Aires City — officials had taken the precaution of confirming a “water emergency” to prepare residents for expected peak water levels this coming weekend.
A press release from Yacyretá revealed that in the nearby locality of Ituzaingó, water levels had reached four metres from 5pm Tuesday and were expected to rise above five metres between yesterday and today, given that 50,000 cubic metres of water per second were flowing through its flood gates. The usual amount flowing through the dam is 13,500 cubic metres per second.
River levels “could reach 5.5 metres on the hydrometer at the Ituzaingó locality (in Misiones province)” by today, according to the Binational Yacyretá Entity (EBY), which operates the hydroelectric complex, despite the Iguazú River further up having begun to retreat around five centimetres an hour as of yesterday morning.
Misiones on alert
After large chunks of the Iguazú National Park which includes the famous Iguazú waterfalls were shut off to tourists on Tuesday, streams and rivers in Misiones province yesterday began to overflow, prompting provincial government officials to order the closure of bridges and a 200-kilometre stretch of National Highway 12.
“The force of the currents puts the stability of the bridges at risk,” Misiones Government Minister Jorge Daniel Franco said. His colleague, provincial Health Minister Oscar Herrera Ahaud, confirmed that helicopter services had been activated to transfer sick people in some of the localities that have been cut off by the overflowing rivers.
At the falls, water levels had reached a record 43,000 cubic metres per second on Tuesday, a scenario which had been expected to have a significant impact on infrastructure at the prime tourist location shared between Brazil and Argentina. However, most parts of the tourist circuit had been reopened yesterday without reports of major damage.
The provinces of Chaco and Corrientes, south of Misiones province, were also on alert yesterday. Both provincial governments had activated safety protocols in line with the growing Paraná River, which is expected to reach peak water levels during the coming weekend.
Corrientes City officials warned of a “bleak” outlook for the coming days, citing Naval Prefecture and EBY estimates that water levels would exceed those registered mid last year when floods caused widespread damage and evacuations across several provinces.
Herald staff with DyN,