By Linda Unger*
April 5, 2013—The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is assessing damages and relief needs in the province and city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, after record rainfall this week caused severe flooding that took the lives of 57 people and shut down power for more than a quarter-million.
Residents of the city of Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, awoke Tuesday, April 2, to a heavy downpour as forecasted by the national weather service.
“But no one expected nearly seven inches of rain in less than two hours!” said the Rev. Juan Gattinoni, executive secretary for Mission Relationships of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Gattinoni, who lives in Buenos Aires, described the scene in the capital: “Areas of the city that are normally prone to flooding quickly became lakes and rivers. It was difficult or impossible to leave the house, as the floodwaters rose. Cars floated and sank. The power went out, and everything just stopped.”
Six people died in the capital, some of whom could not escape from their homes or cars, Gattinoni said.
But the storm wasn’t over. It moved to the city of La Plata, about 37 miles away, where, between late Tuesday and early Wednesday, it dumped more than 16 inches of rain. City residents saw more rain in just a few hours than they had ever seen in the entire month of April, news sources said.
“Material losses are great,” said Gattinoni, “but the loss of human life is even greater. Fifty-one people died in La Plata, many of them elderly people who drowned in their homes.”
The sun has since come out, Gattinoni said, “to illuminate the destruction, the pain, and the people’s worries for the future.” But he was heartened by the solidarity he witnessed on the part of schools, community organizations, and the Argentine Methodist Church to help those impacted by the flooding.
UMCOR is preparing to respond to the survivors of the flooding in Argentina. Your gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450, will support UMCOR’s response to this tragic event and to emergencies around the world.
*Linda Unger is senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.