Argentine Military Offers Humanitarian Aid to La Plata Flood Victims
By Dialogo April 29, 2013
BUENOS AIRES — Nearly a month after a deadly storm hit La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province, Argentina’s Armed Forces are still involved in a massive humanitarian effort to assist the survivors.
The flood, which devastated parts of Argentina on April 2, left 52 dead and disrupted the lives of another 350,000, according to official figures — roughly one-third the city’s population. More than 1,200 Army soldiers have been mobilized to distribute food, provide transport, remove debris and evacuate personnel, said the Argentine Ministry of Defense.
The effort has involved 50 trucks, 16 dump trucks, 15 Unimog multi-purpose vehicles, two buses and four ambulances, as well as mechanical shovels from the Army and the Air Force.
Troops participating in this effort belong to the 1st Armored Brigade Command, the Mechanical Infantry Regiment, the Armored Cavalry Exploration Squadron, the 8th Tank Cavalry Regiment and the Communications Group 601, among other military units.
“Several thousand hot-food rations have been offered in different evacuation centers, as well as drinking water,” the Defense Ministry said in a public statement. Arana and City Bell garrisons are still receiving donations from all over the country and distributing emergency supplies to those in need.
In the City Bell neighborhood, Army personnel work at three warehouses receiving and sorting food, bottled water and other materials, which are then transferred to the main distribution points by trucks. Teams of engineers and scientists assist the soldiers, with the 601st Engineering Battalion carrying out water purification and distribution. In turn, the Arana Regiment helps wash and dry clothes for people affected by the flood.
“To that end, [the military] put into operation two laundry machines, with a capacity of more than 30 kilograms each, two industrial dryers, and 20 ironing boards,” the Army said.
Joint security operation
Buenos Aires State Police [Policía Bonaerense], the Argentine Naval Prefecture and the Argentine National Gendarmerie are also assisting victims of the tragedy in La Plata. Ricardo Casal, security minister of the Province of Buenos Aires, said a special joint security operation has been launched in the most affected areas to maintain order at night.
“More than 400 policemen are been deployed in Los Hornos, Villa Elvira, San Carlos and Tolosa neighborhoods,” Casal told local media. He said the stepped-up police presence is key to preventing looting. On April 2, the day of the flood, about 100 people looted a local supermarket.
The torment that hit La Plata was one of the most violent in Argentine history. Between 300 and 400 millimeters of rain fell over the course of three hours, according to authorities.
A preliminary report by the municipal government said the flood damaged 58,000 properties, or one-fourth of all buildings in the city. Of that total, 55,761 were households and the remaining 2,846 shops and garages.
Daniel Scioli, governor of Buenos Aires province, said the situation is unprecedented.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Scioli said. “People were taken by surprise, and some didn’t have time to escape this deadly trap.”