The world-famous Iguazu Falls, a popular tourist attraction in South America, is once again drawing attention on the world stage as it thundered to life on Wednesday with exceptional flow rates that have been described as unusually high. The spectacle occurred after heavy rainfall affected the region.
The falls are made up of 275 cascades tumbling over towering cliffs on the border of Brazil and Argentina. The normal flow of water over the falls is 396,258 gallons of water per second, and at midweek, the flow registered at 3.8 million gallons of water per second.
With a flow 10 times greater than usual, authorities were forced to close the tourist walkway on the Brazilian side Wednesday due to safety concerns, according to AFP. This walkway is one of the tourist-frequented points because it provides viewing access to the Devil's Throat, a set of waterfalls that make up the main attraction of the park.
The Iguazu Falls had a water flow 10 times greater than normal on Oct. 12, 2022, following heavy rain. (AFP)
On the Argentine side, walkways had been closed since Tuesday for the same reasons.
Wemerson Augusto, the communications coordinator of the park, told AFP this is an "atypical" phenomenon for October. He explained that is why officials decided to do a precautionary closure of the walkways while keeping the park still open to visitors.
The civil defense of Paraná, the southern Brazilian state where the heavy rainfall was measured, said 24 municipalities were impacted as well. "Severe events" such as flooding forced more than 1,200 residents to evacuate the area and left almost 400 homes damaged, according to AFP.
This is the highest flow in the falls since June 2014, when the flow peaked at 12.4 million gallons of water per second.
This isn't the only time that flow surged in recent years. In fact, in June of this year, torrential rainfall caused the flow to increase to five times the normal rush of water.
That episode followed a drought period in 2020 that saw the falls' thundering cascades dry to a trickle at a time when it typically reaches its peak. Moderate drought conditions led to the neighboring Paraná River plunging to its lowest level in 50 years by the end of April 2020, causing ships to be stranded and weakening hydropower production, according to Reuters.
Iguazu Falls in Foz do Iguazu, Brazil, Saturday, March 14, 2015. The waterfalls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, are part of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world's major underground reserves of fresh water. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
But, after heavy rainfall, the 2.6 million gallons of water per second overflowed the river in June 2022, accelerated the flow of the falls and destroyed much of the railing and footbridges in Devil's Throat (or "Garganta del Diablo" in Spanish), the steepest section of the park due to its 269-foot drop. The structures were quickly replaced and sightseers were invited back in, park officials said.
No damages have been reported this time around.
"This amount of water gives the waterfall a unique beauty," Iguazu National Park Ranger Rodrigo Castillo told AFP in June. "There are many people who come here in a dry season and complain that there is no water. The people who come now and see all this water, it's like something that is also intimidating."
FILE - This March 15, 2015 file photo shows a rainbow at Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side in Foz do Iguazu, Brazil. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz, File)
The Iguazu Falls are considered one of the most dramatic natural wonders of the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. They are second in height only to Victoria Falls, a set of waterfalls at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa.
When the falls flow at or above capacity, as seen in recent videos, they are a magnificent force of nature to behold and hear.
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