Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Flooding in Santa Fe
In spite of what occurred on this occasion, the overflow of the Salado River has become less common. However this river experiences occasional and extraordinary rises, such as in 1915 and 1973, which caused floods in the neighborhoods of Chalet, Centenario, San Lorenzo, Santa Rosa de Lima, Barranquitas and Villa del Parque, among others.
On April 27, when the results of the national elections were attracting all of our attention -through which a new President would be chosen-, water was inundating the northwest end of the city. In this part of Santa Fe, the public works to prevent floods stopped in 1997 due to a number of reasons: the lack of planning,controversial appointments, and the lack of policies aimed at addressing emergency situations and other relevant events.
The population of this area, especially those who had observed the river’s behavior, had already warned the authorities about the flow of Salado and how it was inundating adjacent lands as a result of intense rainfall, particularly in the higher basin area. This, along with different human activities and the poor management of the basin, was altering the hydrologic cycle of this river.
Finally, on that same day, the force of Salado, along with its erosive effects on the coast, made the retaining wall collapse. Water swept everything away. Houses and cars literally disappeared from the surface, an even the Orlando Alassia Children’s Hospital –a modern hospital that uses state-of- the-art technology, was covered by some 2 meters of water.
We were desperate, helpless and confused, facing the gravest tragedy in this Province, and perhaps at the national level. It was a crisis with no precedents. According to different estimates, at least one fourth of the population was affected by this event (some 150,000 inhabitants), who lost all their belongings. This phenomenon also affected other nearby localities, leading to the evacuation of a great number of people and damaging large production areas.
Some sectors of Santa Fe were covered by water during 20 days. This also brought about the emergence of contagious diseases (such as hepatitis A, leptospirosis and the flu, among others), particularly in shelters and other places where the victims were temporarily staying.
According to the official information provided, there were 30 casualties, but also an unknown number of disappeared victims.
It is worth mentioning that Santa Fe received the support of and tokens of solidarity from both all other Argentinean provinces and abroad. This includes the contributions of Spain, Italy, Japan, the United States, Chile, Germany and other countries, moved by the images and information disseminated through the media. We still have to ease the pain and sorrow of those who lost their beloved ones. We also have to address, without any self-interest, other issues such as hunger, solitude and despair of hundreds of thousands of Argentinean brothers and sisters from Santa Fe, who are being assisted by a number of volunteers. They still ask themselves the same question: How can we start over?
Currently, a Government Emergency Committee has been put in place to address the problems that resulted from the chaos experienced in Santa Fe. Some other intermediate institutions, national and private universities, research and development institutes, as CERIDE (which are part of the Scientific and Technological Program for Inter-Institutional Cooperation) are collaborating as well, in order to rebuild the area of Santa Fe, affected by this catastrophe. They, however, will need many years before being identified again, as its slogan states, as the ‘pleasant but invincible’ city. Its people will also need some time to recover themselves so that they can move on and live with dignity, as any other civilized society.