El Naranjo River bursts, destroying homes and causing evacuations in Guatemala City

El Naranjo River bursts, destroying homes and causing evacuations in Guatemala City

Heavy rain caused the El Naranjo River to break its banks in the early hours of September 25, 2023, near Guatemala City. The flash floods destroyed six homes in the shantytown of Dios Es Fiel, claiming at least six lives and leaving 12 others missing.

Following the catastrophic flooding caused by the overflowing El Naranjo River, rescue operations are in full swing in the Dios Es Fiel settlement located in Zone 7 of Guatemala City. By late September 25, authorities confirmed the discovery of six bodies. An additional 12 individuals remain missing, intensifying the urgency of ongoing search and rescue efforts led by the country’s disaster agency, CONRED (Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres).

The rainfall recorded overnight from September 24 to September 25 was the catalyst for the river’s breach. Several families have been displaced from their homes, taking refuge in emergency accommodations. Apart from destroying six residences in the shantytown, the rushing water exacerbated the precarious living conditions of residents already burdened by economic struggles.

Addressing the nation, President Alejandro Giammattei expressed his profound concern and solidarity with those affected. “Preliminarily there are deaths, missing people, and damage to homes,” the President said. Multiple units of firefighters and CONRED personnel, assisted by sniffer dogs, initiated their operations early on September 25.

Marvin Cabrera, 36, a food delivery worker residing in the affected area, told AFP, “We knew the risk, [but] we are here out of necessity.” Guatemala struggles with a 59% poverty rate and a significant housing deficit, which according to the Guatemalan Chamber of Construction and the ANACOVI builders’ association, stands at about 2 million units. Such deficits contribute to the proliferation of informal settlements in locations susceptible to natural disasters.

The persistent heavy rainfall in Guatemala has also affected other regions. On September 22, five workers died when a building site collapsed due to rain in the San Cristóbal neighborhood, San Pedro Yepocapa in Chimaltenango Department. CONRED disclosed that, during the current rainy season, at least 32 individuals have lost their lives in over 800 rain-related incidents across the country.


1 Six dead, 12 missing in Guatemala landslides after heavy rain – Al Jazeera – September 25, 2023

2 Guatemala – 19 Feared Missing After Flash Floods in Guatemala City – FloodList – September 26, 2023

Featured image credit: CONRED


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