Argentina scours flood areas for bodies

Police and soldiers search for bodies in Buenos Aires province after floods from torrential rains killed at least 57.

    Argentine police and soldiers are searching house to house, in creeks and culverts and even in trees for bodies after floods killed at least 57 people in the province and city of Buenos Aires.

    As torrential rains stopped and the waters receded, the crisis shifted to guaranteeing public health and safety in this provincial capital of nearly one million people.

    Safe drinking water was in short supply on Thursday, and more than 250,000 people were without power, although authorities said most would get their lights back on overnight.

    Many people saw everything they owned disappear under water reeking with sewage and fuel that rose nearly two metres high inside some homes.

    Wreckage left as waters receded included piles of broken furniture, overturned cars, ruined food and other debris.

    The situation caused frustration among locals, with President Cristina Fernandez and other officials being booed at when they tried to talk with victims.

    Many yelled "go away" and "you came too late".

    "I understand you, I understand you're angry," Kirchner said before she and Governor Daniel Scioli fled in their motorcade from an angry crowd.

    Scioli said the death toll had risen to 51 people in and around La Plata, following six deaths in the national capital from flooding two days earlier.

    But he said nearly all of the missing had been accounted for.

    'Lost everything'

    Many of the dead came from the poor La Plata neighbourhood of Ringelen

    Aida Luz Cornejo, working as a maid, said her family of seven lost everything, and have not received any assistance.

    Soldiers helped evacuate people in La Plata [AFP]

    "We have nothing," she told Al Jazeera. "I asked for a dry mattress and didn't get it. Politicians went everywhere else but here."

    A store and an elementary school were looted, but police and troops were helping residents guard neighbourhoods to prevent more crimes.

    In addition to 750 provincial police officers, the national government sent in army, coast guard, police and social welfare workers.

    Mobile hospitals were activated after two major hospitals were flooded, and government workers were handing out donated water, canned food and clothing.

    Provincial Health Minister Alejandro Collia said hepatitis shots were being given at 33 evacuation centres, and that spraying would kill mosquitoes that spread dengue fever.

    "The humanitarian question comes first. The material questions will be resolved in time," said Scioli, who promised subsidies, loans and tax exemptions for the victims.

    Argentina's weather service had warned of severe thunderstorms, but nothing like the rainfall that fell this week.

    More than 400mm drenched La Plata in just a few hours late on Tuesday and early Wednesday - more than has ever been recorded there for the entire month of April.

    In both Buenos Aires and La Plata, sewage and storm drain systems were overwhelmed, and low-lying neighbourhoods had all but the upper parts of houses under water.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Agencies


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