BUENOS AIRES – The death toll from the heavy rains that have recently fallen on Buenos Aires and nearby parts of the country now stands at 54, Argentine authorities said Wednesday.
The “tsunami of rain,” as it has been called, has forced thousands of people to be evacuated and caused significant damage to homes and infrastructure.
The Argentine government is working with provincial and local authorities to evacuate homes, for instance in the La Plata neighborhoods of Las Lomas and Tolosa where some of them are flooded with more than 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of water.
Of the 48 confirmed fatalities in La Plata, 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of the national capital, only 24 have been able to be identified, said Buenos Aires provincial security minister Ricardo Casal, adding that among the identified dead was just one younger person – a 21-year-old man – and all the rest were people over age 50.
The governor of Buenos Aires province, the capital of which is La Plata, Daniel Scioli, had told the media earlier on Wednesday that the number of fatalities there exceeded 46, while six people are known to have died in the city of Buenos Aires itself.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Wednesday afternoon went first to La Plata, her birthplace, and later to Mitre, one of the Buenos Aires neighborhoods most affected by the storms, to survey the flooded areas and speak with local residents.
The Argentine government also decreed three days of national mourning for the victims of the weather catastrophe and deployed army troops to the flooded areas to help assist the people affected by the storm.
Scioli stressed the priority of “saving the lives that can be saved.”
“The priority is human (life), after which the material damage will be evaluated and how those affected can be helped to recover what they’ve lost,” he said.
“It was a deluge without historical precedent. So, the people have been surprised in the worst way and some did not have time to be able to escape this fatal trap,” Scioli said.
The governor said that army troops and firefighters are going “house to house” to rescue the people who took refuge from floodwaters in trees or on the roofs of their homes.
“The situation is very complex,” said Scioli, who called the deluge a “tsunami of rain” and added that the local schools have been established as evacuation centers.
Argentine Security Secretary Sergio Berni said that more than 3,000 people have been evacuated and warned that authorities are not ruling out an increase in the death toll in La Plata as rescue and recovery efforts continue.
Argentine Planning Minister Julio de Vido said that more than 73,000 homes were still without electricity in the wake of the storm, although power had been restored to some 177,000 homes that had suffered power outages in Buenos Aires. EFE