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Bolivia declares flooding disaster

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  • National disaster declared after weeks of flooding in Bolivia
  • Floods blamed for 60 deaths; about 43,000 made homeless
  • Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and U.S. providing aid
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LA PAZ, Bolivia (CNN) -- -- President Evo Morales declared a national disaster Tuesday after weeks of heavy storms resulted in widespread flooding blamed for scores of deaths, particularly in northeastern Bolivia.

In addition to 60 deaths, the heavy rain that began last November has left more than 43,000 people homeless, according to official figures. Five people are reported missing.

Dozens of families have been evacuated from hills around the El Beni region's capital city of Trinidad, where they have taken refuge. Inside Trinidad, the only scarce water was potable water.

The rainfall during this year's rainy season may exceed last year's total by 50-100 centimeters, according to studies in this area of the Amazon basin.

"What are we going to do with nature?" asked Ovidio Suarez, who was made homeless in Beni by the floods. "We can't blame anyone. Let's see how much God wants to punish us. Because this is a punishment he is giving."

"There's nowhere to go," said Kenia Alvarez, who is also homeless in Beni. "The water is rising more."

International aid was visible, with helicopters from Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela ferrying in supplies. Donations from the United States were used to set up shelters.

February is summer in South America, and the rains have provoked concern among public health experts that the large standing pools of water could become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that could spread disease. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Gloria Carrasco contributed to this story

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