Record Flooding Kills Dozens in Argentina

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BUENOS AIRES -- Record flash floods in Argentina have killed at least 52 people this week, officials said on Wednesday, destroying thousands of homes and renewing tensions as politicians blamed one another for the high death toll.

In La Plata, a provincial capital 30 miles from Buenos Aires, 46 people were reported to have died after more than 12 inches of rain fell in just a few hours Tuesday night. The flooding also claimed six lives in Buenos Aires after the heaviest April rainfall in more than a century fell on Monday night. More downpours were expected through at least Thursday.

More than 250,000 people in the capital, with 2.9 million people, were still cut off from electricity on Wednesday, 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 Fernández 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 subway also died 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.

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.

The rain also led to a fire Tuesday night at Argentina's biggest oil refinery, close to La Plata. YPF, which runs the plant, suspended operations but said Wednesday that the flames had been extinguished.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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