The worst flooding in over a half-century and a toxic cloud caused by a pesticide container fire have wreaked chaos in Buenos Aires. Neighborhoods were left underwater by torrential rains amid evacuations due to toxic fumes released by the fire.
The rising waters hit the northern part of Buenos Aires the hardest, with most of the city caught unprepared by the rains. In the districts of Belgrano and Almagro cars were swept down the streets and road signs collapsed as people fought to barricade their homes against the floodwaters. Power outages were reported in the Palermo, Saavedra and Belgrano neighborhoods.
In some of the worst-hit areas of the city emergency services had to string ropes across the roads to prevent crossing pedestrians from being swept away by the current.
“I left a medical center after having some tests and decided to stay inside because the water level had risen so much. It was then I saw my car float by that I had left four blocks away,” Raul Lombardo told Argentine publication La Nacion.
The Argentinean National Meteorological Service estimated that almost 60 millimeters of rain fell during the course of the day, bringing the city’s transport network to a standstill.
Authorities warned residents to stay indoors and not to throw any garbage into the streets, as it was aggravating the flooding.
Mauricio Macri, Head of Government of Buenos Aires, said that rains of such magnitude had not been seen in the capital city for more than 63 years.
“What is happening now is the product of climate change,” Macri told Argentine channel TN. “Now more than ever we have to commit to a green agenda with a view to reducing gas emissions.”
Toxic smog adds insult to injury
In addition to the floods, a chemical container explosion forced the evacuation of large areas of Buenos Aires. After the fire was put out, a huge toxic cloud billowed from the container, which was carrying large quantities of pesticide.
Authorities issued a warning as the cloud began to spread over the city, calling for the evacuation of a number of buildings close to the scene of the fire.
“The situation is under control. It was a pesticide mainly made up of solid carbon that does not present a major health risk,” Security Vice-Minister Sergio Berni said a few hours after the fire was extinguished.
In response to the pesticide fire, many people in the center of the city could be seen covering their faces with handkerchiefs and masks.