Paraguay's capital issues environmental alert as swollen river threatens waste site

Paraguayan officials warned on Thursday of a possible environmental disaster because a flooding river is threatening a dump site for toxic residues.

State environmental chief Marina Cristina Morales said the Paraguay river already has flooded the Cateura dump in the capital city of Asuncion. The river has risen nearly 6.5 feet (2 meters) above normal, though it was still 9 feet (2.8 meters) below the level of a containment site for toxic waste.

"If the river continues to rise we will likely be facing an environmental disaster," Morales said.

The lower house of Congress approved the declaration of an environmental emergency alert on Thursday and the Senate was expected to also approve the use of more resources, including $1 million aimed at preventing the contamination.

The flooding, after days of torrential rains, already has forced the evacuation of about 300,000 people near the Paraguay and Parana rivers. Most of them were still evacuated Thursday, sheltered in camps of improvised tents.

Paraguay's weather service forecasts that the swollen rivers will begin to slowly recede back to their normal levels by August.