The Heat Is Online

Flooding Inundates northwest Argentina

More rain forecast for flood-hit north Argentina

Reuters News Service, March 13, 2000

BUENOS AIRES - Argentina's national weather service said more rain is likely to fall in coming days in the country's swamped northwest, where floods so far have killed seven people and forced evacuations of 15,000.

The new forecast followed a brief stretch of sun which allowed the lapping waters to recede from parts of the provinces of Tucuman, Santiago del Estero, Jujuy, La Rioja, Catamarca and Salta.

"We calculate there are 15,000 evacuated in the provinces plus self-evacuated families," said Social Action Minister Graciela Fernandez Meijide, who is leading the emergency relief effort and may travel to the disaster area Sunday.

She said a Fokker military plane delivered 11,000 kg (24,000 pounds) of food, clothes, medical supplies, blankets and corrugated steel sheets to the zone Saturday morning. Two other planes followed later with even more supplies.

"The province with the most problems is Santiago del Estero, because along with the rain it is receiving water from the rivers from Tucuman," she said.

The government has established a headquarters to accept donations for flood victims in the capital, Buenos Aires, about 800 miles (1,300 km) southeast of the flood zone.

The flooding is the worst to hit Argentina since 1998, when 120,000 people were evacuated and 17 killed in the provinces of Santa Fe, Misiones, Formosa, Chaco, Corrientes and Entre Rios.

Those floods were attributed to the El Nino weather phenomenon. The current calamity is blamed on the follow-up La Nina weather system, which brings drought to some areas and excessive rains to others.

In Tucuman, a poor sugar and lemon producing province, some 4,500 evacuees huddled in schools and sport complexes after waters rose to seven feet (two metres) in some spots.

The search was on for five missing people in Jujuy, where the floodwaters did not stop annual carnival celebrations in the communities of La Quebrada and Puna.

Some 300 families lost their homes so far in Catamarca, where the local airport was closed, while in Formosa province the Bermejo river continued to rise and threatened to spill over. Authorities said cattle in the southern part of the province on the Paraguayan border were under severe threat.

Highways have been cut off and damaged throughout the flood zone, which encompasses Argentina's poorest populations. Fernandez Meijide recommended resorting to opening dams in some areas such as Santiago del Estero to provide eventual relief.

"It is possible they will have to open the Rio Hondo dam and let the water flow, which means more flooding," she said.

The National Meteorological Service said the incoming rains are not expected to let up until today.