Bolivia ponders plan to relocate parts of flood-ravaged eastern city
February 15, 2008 20:51:15 - Associated Press

TRINIDAD, Bolivia (AP) - Bolivia may relocate whole neighborhoods of flood-ravaged Trinidad after waters swamped the eastern lowland city two years in a row, leaving thousands homeless.

Rescue helicopters on Friday searched for families stranded by muddy waters that have engulfed tens of thousands of square kilometers (miles) in Trinidad's Beni state. Some 4,300 families have been evacuated.

Floods have killed at least 50 people and affected 43,000 families across Bolivia since last November.
Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana said this week that two neighborhoods may be moved to higher ground, a plan that would mean building as many as 1,000 new homes.

Trinidad Mayor Moises Shriqui said Thursday the neighborhoods could be moved, «but not the whole city.
The repeated flooding poses a fearsome challenge to South America's poorest country.

«Who founded Trinidad there, so it would be permanently flooded?» an exasperated President Evo Morales wondered aloud Thursday at a press conference in La Paz. «It doesn't matter now, because we've got to think of how to resolve the problem.

Trinidad was founded on the banks of the Mamore River by Spanish missionaries in 1686, but frequent flooding there led people to move several miles west in 1769.

But the city of 90,000 people still sits in the middle of vast, low plain between the Andes to the south and the Amazon to the north a natural rain gutter that handled the runoff from most of Bolivia.

Political divisions have sometimes hampered relief efforts, but Morales was scheduled to meet with Beni state Gov. Ernesto Suarez one of his fiercest critics in Trinidad on Sunday to coordinate plans.