People of Buenos Aires Province will probably remember these first days of August as a time in which they witnessed the sequel to Noah’s ark. The torrential rains that have hit the province this last week and which have flooded several districts won’t roll back and keep on taking over more ground. As of Wednesday afternoon, over 12,000 people had been evacuated from their homes, 20,000 of which were somehow damaged, and three people — including an 11 year old — had died due to related causes. To top it all, the National Meteorology Service said the sudestada (“strong winds”) would start to blow during the afternoon and hit the province’s northeastern section, something that would make water levels rise. Here’s a rundown of what’s been going on, and what’s coming up.
IT RAINED SO HARD LAST WEEK SOME CALLED FOR THE PRIMARIES TO BE POSTPONED.
Due to the intense storms that took place prior to the primary elections, over 1,600 people had to leave their homes and spend the night in shelters provided by the municipality, after the Luján, Arrecifes and Areco rivers flooded the adjacent towns.
Given the circumstances, some called for the elections to be postponed. José C. Paz mayoral hopeful Mario Ishii released a statement in which he said the intense rains “threatened Argentine people’s rights to submit their votes in the primary elections scheduled next Sunday.”
However, the Electoral Justice (the body in charge of overseeing the voting process), adopted preventive measures to keep the electoral process on track. Since Friday, the justice has worked to relocate several voting centers in the districts that were most affected by the floods, transferring said centers from 62 schools in 27 different districts to other establishments. Despite the obvious difficulties, the elections were carried out normally.
The only problem that emerged was the fact that ballots from Buenos Aires Province took longer than usual to arrive to the collection center, and results declaring Cambiemos coalition candidate María Eugenia Vidal as well as Aníbal Fernández victors weren’t available until the next morning.
THINGS AFTER SUNDAY ONLY GOT WORSE.
It seemed like things would slowly go back to normal over the weekend. That was not to be. Copious amounts of rain fell over the province Sunday and Monday and didn’t give people a chance to evacuate. A special report from the National Meteorology Service indicated that more water had poured over the province in ten days than the expected amount in the whole month. In only two days, more than 230 mm had fallen over the center and northern regions of Buenos Aires.
The report highlighted the fact that in the measurements registered in 24 hours, there were “significant events in some areas of the region that surpassed the highest record to date.”
SOME PEOPLE LEFT THEIR HOMES, SOME DIDN’T. THEY WERE ALL HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME.
Again, the rains caused the levels of the Areco, Arrecifes and Luján rivers to rise, thus preventing the accumulated water from draining. “The water is taking everything from us,” stated most people being forced to evacuate. However, some refused to leave their homes for fear of being robbed.
Rescue brigades had to get to flooding victims via boat or kayak and gave them warm food rations, clothing and medicine. “We don’t want to leave because we have to look out for the few things we have left,” described a family to Telefé Network. They stayed in their home despite the water level surpassing their knees. The same scenario repeated itself over and over in other homes.
The rescue brigades from the town of Salto confirmed to Infobae they had evacuated 700 people, but there were thousands who evacuated on their own. The town mayor stated the total figure of affected people reaches 5,000, and neighbors maintain this is the worst flood in history.
Social media did its part when it came to depicting the complete scenario.
On Tuesday night, the Luján river rose to its highesl level ever recorded. Between 7 PM and 10 PM, the flow reached 5.43 meters.
The districts that had the highest numbers of people evacuating were Mercedes with 3,000, San Antonio de Areco with almost 1,000 and Salto, which had 900 people sleeping in official centers.
KICILOFF ANNOUNCED WELFARE BENEFITS FOR THOSE AFFECTED.
On Wednesday morning, Economy Minister Axel Kiciloff, joined by ANSES director Diego Bossio, stated in a press conference that three different measures would be adopted to help the inhabitants of the affected areas. Senior citizens who collect pensions will see them doubled for three months (they are to receive AR$8,000 in two instalments). Individuals who receive family allowances such as the Universal Child Allowance will also see that amount tripled for a trimester. That total reaches AR$1,664. Finally, students part of the Progresar program will receive an additional AR$ 1,800 to continue their studies.
“An ANSES team along with other bodies will go to every affected area to do a survey over every family and see who gets the payment,” stated Bossio.
SAN ANTONIO DE ARECO’S MAYOR DOESN’T WANT PEOPLE TO UPLOAD PICTURES OF THE FLOODED TOWN BECAUSE IT HURTS TOURISM.
THE RAIN COMPLETELY FLOODED A SOCCER CLUB.
There weren’t many structures that were left unharmed by the flood. Deportivo Flandria, a professional soccer club located in Jáuregui that competes in the third division, had all its facilities buried underwater after the Luján river overflowed.
Authorities from different division two clubs such as Chacarita offered Flandria the possibility to play its home games on their stadiums.
TO MAKE EVERYTHING WORSE, THE METEOROLOGY SERVICE FORECASTED SUDESTADA WINDS HITTING THE AREA.
Even though the absence of rain Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning provided some relief to the province, a weather alert for strong sudestada winds erased it in no time. The Meteorology Service informed sudestada would hit the coastal areas of the La Plata river and the Paraná river’s delta, something that would make the waters rise, again.
“There will still be an emergency situation and we have to be prepared for it,” stated Community Defense Chief Javier Sosa, who was not optimistic about the near future: “We don’t know if the river will keep rising, but we will have more days in which we’ll have to deal with a great amount of accumulated water,” he emphasized.
Infobae created a helpful map to locate the areas that got affected the most. Click here to look at it.
MACRI WAS NOT IMPRESSED AND ANNOUNCED CITY PERSONNEL WOULD GO AID THE PROVINCE.
BA City Mayor and Cambiemos coalition presidential hopeful Mauricio Macri held a press conference Wednesday to inform the public that “staff and resources” from the city would provide help in the Luján area and its surroundings, where hundreds where still suffering the consequences of the floods.
“We’re making moves, starting with Luján. We’re putting the teams to the disposition of every mayor who’s watching us and thinks we can collaborate,” stated Macri, who also complained about the way the state handled the situation. “We’re coordinating the help with the mayors, because they’re complaining about a certain absence from the state in the province,” he added.
Cambiemos’ BA Province gubernatorial hopeful María Eugenia Vidal joined Macri at the press conference and didn’t miss the chance to take a shot at the opposite party’s work in the province: “This, as we showed in Buenos Aires City, gets solved with projects. They [the government] performed cleaning tasks in the Luján river, but it’s not enough. They have to be done by the provincial government.”
According to the presidential hopeful, trained emergency staff, social development and “humanitarian aid specialists” were to participate in the tasks.
MEANWHILE, SCIOLI TRAVELED TO ITALY FOR “MEDICAL REASONS.”
Even though the province is currently dealing with the flood crisis, Governor Daniel Scioli decided to travel to Italy. When consulted about it, Scioli’s Chief of Campaign Jorge Telerman stated the provincial government was dedicated to the problem: “It’s a task the whole cabinet is taking on, and led by province Cabinet Chief Alberto Pérez,” assured Telerman.
The FpV presidential hopeful had planned the trip before the situation began for “medical issues” related to the treatment he receives for his orthopedic arm. He had also scheduled informal encounters with “Italian authorities, businessmen and potential investors to strengthen commercial bonds.” According to La Nación, Scioli was to hold a meeting with Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Predictably, a rain of criticisms (not sorry) fell on Scioli due to his inconvenient timing. A New Alternative presidential hopeful Sergio Massa stated that, “with 20,000 people being evacuated, they’re still taking cheap political shots with the floods.”
San Antonio de Areco’s Mayor Francisco “Paco” Durañona also had words for Scioli’s departure: “One always wants the state to be present. We mayors are sticking our necks out and providing explanations.”
OF COURSE, HE RETURNED.
WILL THIS NIGHTMARE BE OVER ANY TIME SOON?
The aforementioned strong wind alerts could complicate the situation. The report details “southeastern winds, joined by rain and drizzle are expected with an intensity that varies between 50 and 60 km/h” during Wednesday afternoon.
The weather will remain the same until at least Thursday morning and hit Buenos Aires’ south eastern coast, Río de la Plata, coastal areas and the Paraná delta river, according to the organism.
SO IT WILL END ON FRIDAY?
Yes, according to the Weather Channel. However, the consequences of this historic flood will linger on for several more days. A huge number of people and untold amounts of property suffered the intense rains and it’ll be long before the situation goes back to normal.