Record rains flood Argentina, overall death toll rises to 52 – ‘Such intense rain in so little time has left many people trapped in their cars, in the streets, in some cases electrocuted’Posted by Jim at Thursday, April 04, 2013
By Cristian Kovadloff in La Plata and Almudena Calatrava; Debora Rey and Michael Warren in Buenos Aires contributed to this story
3 April 2013
LA PLATA, Argentina (AP) – At least 52 people drowned in their homes and cars, were electrocuted, or died in other accidents as flooding from days of torrential rains swamped Argentina’s low-lying capital and province of Buenos Aires.
At least 46 died Wednesday in and around the city of La Plata, Gov. Daniel Scioli said. Six deaths were reported a day earlier in the nation’s capital.
Many people climbed onto their roofs in the pouring rain after storm sewers backed up. Water surged up through drains in their kitchen and bathroom floors, and then poured in over their windowsills.
“It started to rain really hard in the evening, and began to flood,” said Augustina Garcia Orsi, a 25-year-old student. “I panicked. In two seconds, I was up to my knees in water. It came up through the drains — I couldn’t do anything.”
The rains also flooded the country’s largest refinery, causing a fire that took hours to put out. The La Plata refinery suspended operations as a result, and Argentina’s YPF oil company said an emergency team was evaluating how to get it restarted.
“Such intense rain in so little time has left many people trapped in their cars, in the streets, in some cases electrocuted. We are giving priority to rescuing people who have been stuck in trees or on the roofs of their homes,” Scioli said.
But many complained that they had to rescue themselves and their neighbors as cars flooded to their rooftops and homes filled with up to two meters (six feet) of water.
“We lost family heirlooms, appliances, clothing,” said Natalia Lescano, who escaped with her family to a friend’s house on higher ground.
President Cristina Fernandez arrived by helicopter in Tolosa, a La Plata neighborhood where she grew up and where her mother was among those evacuated. She announced security measures to combat vandalism, help for identifying the dead, and three days of national mourning for the victims.
She was then was surrounded by her mother’s neighbors, in a rare uncontrolled encounter with everyday citizens. Some hugged and thanked her. Others complained angrily and shouted at her to “go away.”
“It’s a disgrace,” Miguel Garcia, a 58-year-old shopkeeper, said earlier. “They need to govern. My mother-in-law is disabled. We had to carry her up to the roof, and then we had to rescue ourselves because no ambulance would come.” […]
The heaviest rain — almost 16 inches (400 millimeters) in just a few hours, beating historical records for the entire month of April — hit provincial La Plata overnight. A day earlier, the capital of Buenos Aires was hit hardest.
About four more inches (100 millimeters more) of rain were expected before the bad weather passes on Thursday, the national weather service said.
At least 2,500 people were evacuated from their homes to about 20 centers in the La Plata area, which is about 37 miles (60 kilometers) southeast of Argentina’s capital.
The flooding threatened to ruin food supplies across La Plata’s metropolitan area, which has nearly 1 million people. [more]
By JONATHAN GILBERT
3 April 2013
BUENOS AIRES (The New York Times) – Record flash floods in Argentina have killed at least 54 people this week, officials said on Wednesday, destroying thousands of homes and renewing tensions as politicians blamed one another for the high death toll.
In La Plata, a provincial capital 30 miles from Buenos Aires, 48 people were reported to have died after more than 12 inches of rain fell in just a few hours on Tuesday night. The flooding also claimed six lives in Buenos Aires after the heaviest April rainfall in more than a century fell on Monday night. More downpours were expected through at least Thursday.
More than 250,000 people in the capital, with 2.9 million people, were still without electricity on Wednesday, Planning Minister Julio De Vido said. Around 2,200 victims have been evacuated from La Plata, a city of 750,000. Some families reported that they had spent Tuesday night on the roofs of their houses waiting to be rescued. […]
Local television reports showed people wading through waist-high water and cars almost entirely submerged. Weeping victims in La Plata said everything in their homes had been ruined. […]
Helicopter footage showed vast swaths of La Plata flooded, and Sergio Berni, the deputy minister of security, said the flood was the city’s worst ever. Many shop owners said they had lost all their produce under three feet of water.
Volunteers at Fundación Sí, one of dozens of community-based groups in Buenos Aires helping with relief efforts, organized donations of food, water, diapers and mattresses Wednesday night, all bound for La Plata.
Monday night’s rainfall of more than six inches in Buenos Aires was the heaviest in April since records began being kept in 1906, officials said. The monthly average for the capital is 3.8 inches, and the city flooded four times last year. [more]