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A man looks to the sky outside his home in a flooded street where a car is submerged in La Plata
A man looks to the sky outside his home in a flooded street where a car is submerged in La Plata
Image: Natacha Pisarenko/AP/Press Association Images

Record floods leave 54 dead in Argentina

Record rainfall has swept through the streets of La Plata, about 40 miles south of Buenos Aires.
Apr 3rd 2013, 9:58 PM 7,960 2

MASSIVE FLOODING HAS killed 54 people in and around Buenos Aires, Argentine officials have said, with most of the victims being found after a second day of record rainfall hit the area.

At least 46 people died as flood waters hit the nearby city of La Plata about 40 miles south of Buenos Aires, following historic rains that swept through the streets, submerging cars as people cowered on rooftops.

“The bodies began to appear as the water subsided,” said Governor Daniel Scioli, as officials confirmed the death toll.

The fatalities in La Plata, administrative centre of the province where Buenos Aires is located, followed at least eight others in Argentina’s capital yesterday, when a storm knocked out power lines and downed trees.

President Christina Kirchner made a surprise visit to the region, surveying the devastation by helicopter.

A record 16 inches of rain fell on La Plata in a two-hour period late yesterday and into today, officials said, knocking out phone lines and leaving about half the city in the dark.

In Buenos Aires, more than six inches of rain – an April record – fell between late Monday and early yesterday, the weather service said.

Flood waters reached six feet in some places, turning roadways in La Plata – a city of 900,000 inhabitants – into a raging river.

Catastrophe

The water inundated the home of Fernando Chatte, 57, causing property damage and rendering the food in the house inedible.

“Luckily the milk cartons were closed, so that my son could still have his breakfast,” said Chatte, who said that apart from that “all the food was lost. Nothing remains.”

A senior city official, Santiago Martorelli, told local television that the floods were a “catastrophe,” and said La Plata’s schools and government offices had been closed.

“There are people on rooftops, in trees waiting for us to rescue them,” Martorelli said, adding that firefighters, civil defense workers, police and soldiers have been deployed to the area to help in rescue operations.

In nearby Tolosa, meanwhile, 50 automobiles were rendered immobile after high water encircled part of the town, cutting off roads and preventing authorities from rescuing stranded motorists and passengers.

“We have no batteries, no power,” lamented Vanessa Silletti as she spoke by phone to local radio, stranded in her vehicle with a 10-month old infant. “I can nurse my baby, but that’s about it. We are stuck here, powerless, unable to move.”

Authorities said around 2,500 people are still unable to return home as they wait for flood waters to subside, and have taken refuge in emergency shelters.

Maximiliano Miceli, 34, told AFP that he was stunned by the flooding in La Plata, where he has never seen heavy rain, nor such devastation:”This is the first time that this has ever happened,” he said, as he wiped away muddy water from inside his ruined car.

- © AFP, 2013

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