Record flooding kills dozens in Argentina
Political tensions renewed as politicians engage in blame-game over high death toll
People wade through a flooded street after a rainstorm in Buenos Aires. Record flash floods in Argentina have killed at least 54 people this week, officials have confirmed. Photograph: Enrique Marcarian/Reuters
An aerial view of flooded streets is pictured after heavy rains in La Plata. At least 48 people are reported to have died in the provincial capital 30 miles from Buenos Aires. Photograph: Reuters
Record flash floods in Argentina have killed at least 54 people this week, officials have confirmed. The floods have destroyed thousands of homes and renewed tensions as politicians blame 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 Monday night. More downpours were expected today.
More than 250,000 people in the capital, with 2.9 million people, were still cut off from electricity yesterday, 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.
The flooding deaths led to squabbling between the national government and the Buenos Aires city government, which is headed by Mauricio Macri, a fierce opponent of president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Mr De Vido said Mr Macri knew that the storm was coming and had failed to act. Mr Macri accused the national government of preventing the city from taking out World Bank loans to finance infrastructure projects in the capital.
Local television reports showed people wading waist-high through the water and cars almost entirely submerged. Weeping victims in La Plata said everything in their homes had been ruined. "It was a fatal trap," said Daniel Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires province. Rescue efforts were focused on finding trapped people to prevent further fatalities, and schools were being used as evacuation centers, he added.
Alberto Grimaldi, whose 81-year-old mother was killed, told a local radio station, "My 15-year-old child found his grandmother dead under the refrigerator." She lived in the neighborhood of Saavedra, one of the worst affected in Buenos Aires. A worker on the Buenos Aires underground also died on Tuesday after he was electrocuted. 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 Fundacion Si, one of dozens of community-based groups in Buenos Aires helping with relief efforts, organized donations of food, water, nappies and mattresses, 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.