A couple looks at their flooded street from behind their home's window in La Plata, in Argentina's Buenos Aires province, Wednesday, 3 April 2013. At least 35 people were killed by flooding overnight in Argentina's Buenos Aires province, the governor said Wednesday, bringing the overall death toll from days of torrential rains to at least 57 and leaving large stretches of the provincial capital under water. Photo: AP

By Michael Warren and Almudena Calatrava in Buenos Aires
4 April 2013

LA PLATA, Argentina (AP) – Argentine police and soldiers searched house to house, in creeks and culverts and even in trees for bodies on Thursday after floods killed at least 57 people in the province and city of Buenos Aires.

As torrential rains stopped and the waters receded, the crisis shifted to guaranteeing public health and safety in this provincial capital of nearly 1 million people. Safe drinking water was in short supply, and more than a quarter-million people were without power, although authorities said most would get their lights back on overnight.

Many people barely escaped with their lives after seeing everything they own disappear under water reeking with sewage and fuel that rose more than six feet (nearly two meters) high inside some homes. The wreckage was overwhelming: piles of broken furniture, overturned cars, ruined food and other debris.

Their frustration was uncontainable as politicians arrived making promises. President Cristina Fernandez, Gov. Daniel Scioli, Social Welfare Minister Alicia Kirchner and the mayors of Buenos Aires and La Plata were all booed when they tried to talk with victims. Many yelled "go away" and "you came too late."

"I understand you, I understand you're angry," Kirchner said before she and the governor fled in their motorcade from an angry crowd. "There is no water, there is no electricity. We have nothing," said Nelly Cerrado, who was looking for donated clothing at a local school. "Terrible, terrible what we are going through. And no one comes. No one. Because here, it is neighbors who have to do everything."

The nearby Ensenada refinery, Argentina's largest, remained offline after flooding caused a fire that took hours to quench in the middle of the rainstorm, the state-run YPF oil company said. YPF said it would take them 36 more hours just to drain excess water from the damaged refinery, and at least another seven days before the refinery can renew operations. The company also said it was putting into place an emergency plan to guarantee gasoline supplies, and would invest $800 million to replace a damaged coking unit where the flood caused a fire with a newer, higher-capacity unit.

Scioli said the death toll had risen to 51 people in and around La Plata, following six deaths in the national capital from flooding two days earlier. But he said nearly all of the missing had been accounted for.

The victims included a member of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo human rights group, Lucila Ahumada de Inama, who was found under nearly six feet (about 1.7 meters) of water inside her home. She died without having found her grandson, born in captivity after her pregnant daughter-in-law was kidnapped by Argentina's dictatorship in 1977. […]

Argentina's weather service had warned of severe thunderstorms, but nothing like rainfall that fell this week. More than 16 inches (400 millimeters) drenched La Plata in just a few hours late Tuesday and early Wednesday — more than has ever been recorded there for the entire month of April.

In both Buenos Aires and La Plata, sewage and storm drain systems were overwhelmed, and low-lying neighborhoods looked something like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, with all but the upper parts of houses under water.

And in both cities, politicians sought to fix blame on their rivals as residents complained that government in general was ill-prepared and providing insufficient help. It didn't help that the mayors of both cities were vacationing in Brazil when disaster struck.

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri said Fernandez needs to foster expensive public works projects to cope with storms that will become more frequent due to climate change. La Plata Mayor Pablo Bruera, meanwhile, arrived home to an additional, self-inflicted disaster: While he was in Brazil, a tweet sent from his official Twitter account falsely claimed he had been "checking on evacuation centers since last night." The tweet even included an old picture of Bruera handing out bottled water.

Bruera told reporters Thursday that he would not resign over the false claim, and that he had instead fired the people responsible for what he called a "mistake by my communications team." [more]

Argentine politicians jeered as flood toll hits 57


Aerial view of a flooded area in the outskirts of La Plata, Argentina on 3 April 2013. Photo: Juan Mabromata / AFP / Getty Images

4 April 2013 (BBC) – Emergency workers in Argentina continue to try to rescue residents stranded by flooding in Buenos Aires and La Plata.

More than 50 people are known to have died after one of the heaviest storms recorded caused flash floods.

Thousands were evacuated from their homes and dozens are still stranded on rooftops, treetops and the roofs of city buses, local media report.

The government has declared three days of national mourning after what it called "an unprecedented catastrophe".

"We've never seen anything like it," provincial governor Daniel Scioli said.

"People were taken by surprise, and some didn't have time to escape this deadly trap," Mr Scioli said, referring to the speed with which the waters rose.

Provincial officials said 40cm (16in) of rain fell on the city of La Plata in the space of two hours late on Tuesday night.

Earlier, the storm had dumped 15cm of rainfall on the capital, Buenos Aires.

Local officials said at least 48 people were killed in La Plata, six in Buenos Aires and two in its suburbs. The Red Cross said most of the victims had been elderly people who drowned in their homes.

So far, only half of the bodies have been identified and rescue workers fear the number of dead may rise as more bodies are found as the flood waters recede. [more]

Argentina floods 'catastrophe' for La Plata, Buenos Aires


By Tammy Lee Morris
3 Apr 2013

(Yahoo! Contributor Network) – In what is being called the largest weather-related disaster in the history of Buenos Aires province, torrential flooding over the past few days has created havoc and resulted in great loss of life. According to the Associated Press, several days of rain has flooded the Buenos Aires province capital city of La Plata, leaving large areas of that city underwater.

  • The death toll due to the flooding is at 31 with at least 25 killed overnight in La Plata after another 16 inches of rain fell in about two hours' time.
  • Most of the overnight deaths were of people who tried to take refuge in their vehicles in Tolosa, an area of La Plata.
  • Buenos Aires province Gov. Daniel Scioli stated that the sudden onslaught of rain caught many people unprepared, leaving them trapped and attempting to take shelter in vehicles, trees, on top of houses. He said that some of the deaths were because of electrocution.
  • Scioli stated that rescue workers are currently trying to help people who have been trapped in trees or on the roofs of their homes.
  • More than 2,500 people have been evacuated from La Plata, but that number is expected go up quickly.
  • Power is out all over La Plata and several areas of the city were reportedly under 6 feet of water.
  • The rain resulted in the death of six people in the Argentine capital city of Buenos Aires on the previous day and left widespread power failures and flooding in the area.
  • According to the BBC, the city of Buenos Aires was flooded after being hit with rain for seven hours. The Mayor of Buenos Aires reported that approximately 350,000 people in that city had been affected by the torrential rainfall.
  • The BBC reported that one of the deaths from the flooding in La Plata and the city of Buenos Aires was a city worker who was electrocuted while trying to pump water from a flooded underground station.
  • The AP reported that the country's largest refinery was flooded, resulting in a fire. Operations at the refinery have been suspended following the flood and subsequent fire. It took emergency workers hours to put out the refinery fire. There were no reported injuries due to the fire at the refinery.
  • City authorities from Buenos Aires stated that this rain incident was the heaviest April rainfall to hit the area in 100 years.

Argentina Flood Death Toll Continues to Rise

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