Flood­ing prompts evac­u­a­tions in Buenos Aires province

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY NAT­ACHA PIS­ARENKO

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 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 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 al­most 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.

AP

Camila Pulero grabs the hand of Lud­mila Sayago as they wade through a flooded street in Lu­jan, Ar­gentina, Tues­day, Aug. 11.

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