December 20, 2014
BA City: Floods leave chaotic aftermath
The aftermath of the torrential downpour that swept through Buenos Aires City on Tuesday morning, flooding several of its neighbourhoods and killing at least six residents, was marked by continuing political quarrel.
Reports estimated that between 140-190 millimetres fell within two hours, causing chaotic scenes that the city is unfortunately growing accustomed to.
The City government and various social organizations were able to begin relief operations in earnest yesterday, as the holiday on Tuesday had significantly hampered efforts to immediately attend to the 350,000 people affected.
As the water receded, teams of technicians gradually intensified repair works, restoring power services, draining flooded houses, streets and underpassages and collecting furniture and other items ruined by the water.
City gov’t calls for works cooperation
The governments of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri sought to blame each other for the chaos.
Macri said yesterday that the only solution is for the constantly warring governments to work together on expensive and long-term public works projects, creating huge underground drainage pipes to alleviate the effect of increasingly common torrential rains, which flood the numerous streams that flow undeneath the city out into River Plate.
“Facing the magnitude of what we’ve lived through, I insist that public works are what will change this story,” Macri said, describing one such project that was achieved through regional cooperation and a loan from the World Bank — the kind of borrowing that the government of Fernández has sought to avoid.
“We need to do the same with all the waterworks that are needed in the city, in greater Buenos Aires and in the province of Buenos Aires,” Macri said, maintaining he received “no calls from the President,” and effectively reducing the solution to the matter to the federal government’s authorization for works.
Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido slammed Macri by saying that the “municipalities in Greater Buenos Aires where works were carried out in a de-centralized manner, and that had similar rainfall to Buenos Aires City, did not have such problems.”
With regard to criticism that he was on holiday in Brazil on Tuesday, Macri retorted that as a “civil servant, a human being, with a family, I also need to rest,” emphasizing he only “took five days off in summer because of metereological alerts.” Moreover, he said that his absence was obviously counteracted by the presence of an “entire team, with whom I was permanently in contact.”
In this sense, controversy sparked yesterday after news website Perfil.com reported Pablo Bruera, the mayor of La Plata, was actually in Brazil on holidays instead of helping victims, as his Twitter account stated.
The mayor also revealed he called Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli to offer his assistance after becoming aware of the tragedy caused by flooding in La Plata.
Defence Minister Arturo Puricelli affirmed that the Army will collaborate with relief tasks for City and provincial localities.
The President went to Villa General Mitre, one of the worst-struck areas in Buenos Aires City, to observe the damages and talk to residents.
Edenor power company revealed that electricity services had been restored for “80,000 clients” by yesterday morning, but that it was “still working” to normalize the situation, with thousands still in the dark and consequently also lacking access to drinking water.
An Edenor spokesperson affirmed that the firm expected to complete the repair process by last night, after which they will deal specific client cases.The most significantly affected city neighbourhoods are “Belgrano, Coghlan, Villa Urquiza, Villa Pueyrredón, Villa Ortúzar, Núñez and Agronomía,” Edenor added.
Edesur spokesperson Alejandra Martínez’s declarations suggested that restoration works could last weeks. Referring to underground electrical infrastructure, Martínez said: “first the water must be removed, then it must be dried, waterproofed and lastly the technical team must rebuild it.”
Edesur maintained its worst-hit areas were Villa Luro, Villa Devoto, Flores, Villa del Parque, and Santa Rita, while the City government warned drivers to move with caution due to traffic light damage.
Schools and evacuees
The City government affirmed that only one school was unable to open for classes, but that several were affected by blackouts.
Macri assured: “Maintenance firms are actively working to repair damages,” while Education Deputy Secretary Carlos Regazzoni specified that at least 60 schools were afflicted. The latter emphasized that none of the institutions’ dining facilites were affected. He announced that municipal hospitals would provide refrigerated storage for medications and replace damaged ones, and added that the 250 people that spent the night in evacuation centres had returned to their homes.
City maintenance employees and rubbish collectors have started to attend to residents in different neighbourhoods, as waste had blocked up drainage and sewage outlets and thus aggravated the flooding.
Most streets’ water levels had receded by yesterday morning, while only one underpass (on Monroe avenue) remained affected, with only one passable lane.
City Bank announced it would be duplicating subsidy credit lines to aid those affected, while it was reported that shop owners and families could seek up to 15,000 pesos in compensation.
Lawmaker Alejandro Bodart yesterday presented a bill before the Legislature that proposes a year’s exemption from the ABL property tax for residents affected by the storm. According to Infobae.com, Lawmaker Cristián Ritondo, the leader of the PRO caucus, confirmed the City government was seriously considering the measure, along with loosening requisites to apply for compensation.
Following Tuesday’s eight-hour strike to protest the death of a Metrovías worker, a normal service returned on all lines yesterday.
AGTSyP Subte union leader Roberto Pianelli said that although no further strong-armed measures lay in store “for now,” “Metrovías and the City government are responsible” for the death of Antonio Villares.
Herald with AP, DyN, Telam, Ambito.com