Residents Flee Panama's Sinking Islands

The indigenous people of San Blas are forced to relocate, thanks to rising seas and climate change.

Image
Reuters

The residents of San Blas, a white sand beach archipelago off the coast of Panama, are adapters. Every year, they brace for the rainy season, which fills their homes and shoreline with crashing waves and water. According to Reuters: "Rising ocean levels caused by global warming and decades of coral reef destruction have combined with seasonal rains to submerge the Caribbean islands for days on end. Once rare, flooding is now so menacing that the Guna have agreed to abandon ancestral lands for an area within their semi-autonomous territory on the east coast of the mainland."

Below, a look at the island home many are leaving behind.

A traffic sign reading 'Slow down' is seen between islands at the Coamarca of Kuna Yala. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)
An indigenous Guna woman stands in her family house in Carti Sugdub island at the Comarca of Kuna Yala in Panama. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)
A group of indigenous Gunas play at the lamp post in Carti Sugdub island at the Comarca of Kuna Yala in Panama. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)
An indigenous Guna boy walks past a clothes line in Nusadup island at the Comarca of Kuna Yala in Panama. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)


An indigenous Guna man holds the head of a tapir before butchering its remains in Tumatar island. (Reuters)

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.