Flooding prompts evacuations in Buenos Aires province
LUJAN, Argentina (AP) — More than 11,000 people had been evacuated by Tuesday from parts of Argentina’s largest province after heavy weekend rains caused rivers to rise precipitously, a top official said.
After a visit to the worst flood-hit areas, National Security Secretary Sergio Berni told reporters late Tuesday that the 11,000 evacuees hail from 39 municipalities in Buenos Aires province. Local television reports showed emergency workers traversing streets in boats in some areas.
One city hit by flooding is Lujan, about 46 miles (75 kilometers) west of the Argentine capital. Thousands of Roman Catholic pilgrims visit the city each year to give thanks to the Virgin of Lujan, the country’s patron saint.
“It’s the third time that I’ve lost everything and no one has found a solution,” said Fabiana Olivera, 43, who took refuge from the flooding at a local shelter with her three children.
Torrential rains in northern Buenos Aires province caused an accumulated 350 millimeters (almost 14 inches) of rain in some areas, which is a record, said Luciano Timerman, head of the province’s agency for emergencies.
Authorities say the Arrecifes River grew to reach 29 feet (nearly 9 meters), nearly twice its usual level, and beat historical records.
Some residents of Buenos Aires province blame deficient infrastructure and a lack of public works projects for the destructive flooding. In 2013, at least 80 people died in the provincial capital of La Plata, as flooding from days of heavy rains swamped Argentina’s low-lying capital and the province of Buenos Aires.
At the time, the governments of President Cristina Fernandez and Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri pointed fingers at each other for the chaos.
Macri said that after the 2013 floods the only solution was for the two governments to work together on expensive and long-term public works projects, creating huge underground drainage pipes to carry increasingly common rains out to the Rio de la Plata.
Olivera, the woman living in the shelter, said she expects at least a month will pass before the water subsides and she can return home. “We’re tired of promises,” she said.
On Tuesday, about 50 residents of Lujan blocked an avenue to demand more public works, including the planned drainage system.
The floods forced the cancellation of classes in several communities near the beachside resort town of Mar del Plata.
Argentina is among the world’s largest suppliers of soybeans, corn and wheat, and the rains that fell on the country’s top grains-producing zones were also expected to affect the planting of wheat.
Several polling places for Argentina’s presidential primary on Sunday were relocated because of flooding.