Argentina - Floods (MDRAR011): Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA)

A. Situation Analysis

Description of the Disaster

On 25 and 26 December 2016, more than 20 locations in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Santa Fe were affected by intense rainfall which was accompanied by hail and strong electrical activity. (Please see Annex 1 for the map of affected provinces). The fact that these were low- lying areas, the soil's saturation and the presence of crevices in basins (the most important in Argentina) caused by the constant rainfall throughout the year led to significant flooding and overflows from rivers and streams. The localities affected in this province by this emergency in this period were not affected by the rainy season in 2015 and 2016.

Pergamino, a city in northern Buenos Aires province, was one of the most affected by the rainfall, receiving some 220 millimetres of water in 4 hours, causing the Pergamino Stream, its tributaries and effluents, such as Chu Creek, to overflow. This led to flooding throughout the city, which is organized into 24 urban and peri-urban neighbourhoods. The flooding, mainly impacted riverside neighbourhoods (the river cuts across the city) such as 9 de Julio, Cueto, Centenario, Tocha, San Vicente, Kennedy, Centro, 27 de Noviembre, Belgrano, Martín M. de Güemes and José Hernández (the latter three are considered informal settlements); and Jorge Newbery (also an informal settlement) along Chu Creek, affecting 13,650 people, i.e. around 11 per cent of the total population. Basic services such as power, telephony, internet and water were partially interrupted for some 36 hours (completely in affected neighbourhoods), and some stretches of National Routes 8 and 9 (the main access roads to Pergamino) were blocked completely by flooding, making it difficult to mobilize assistance from outside of the city.

More than 3,400 homes have been flooded (between 30 and 220 cm of water), forcing families to leave their homes as access is only possible by boat or some 4-wheel drive vehicles. According to Civil Defence reports, around 50 residents have refused to self-evacuate or be evacuated and remain on the roofs of their homes, and approximately 250 are being housed in four collective centres. At the family / individual level, in addition to some medical emergencies and health complications associated with the emergency (injuries, blood pressure issues, etc.), families have reported the loss of household items (furniture, appliances, household goods, bedding, etc.) and sanitation issues such as garbage, waterlogged structures, vermin, vectors. These issues have been exacerbated by the meteorological conditions that are typical for this time of year, such as mean temperatures above 24° C (with highs above 32° C), high humidity, unstable weather conditions and the pre- existing pollution of the Pergamino Stream.

In addition to partial structural damage to dwellings and some public buildings (Primary Health Care Centres [CAPS] in Güemes and José Hernández neighbourhoods), the blocks adjacent to the Pergamino Stream have large amounts of accumulated debris and waste, which have been hard to remove because of the difficulty in accessing these streets. While the city does have a Local Response Plan, it failed to fully anticipate the storm's effects, catching a great number of families by surprise in their homes. On 25 December, the city formally declared a state alert, including a health alert, due to the level of impact suffered.

In Cordoba Province, the strong storm that hit the area on 26 December caused damage to electrical and water services and forced 100 people to evacuate in Jovita. Twelve homes were damaged by hail, and electrical services were interrupted in La Cumbre and in La Falda due to high winds that damaged lamp posts. Six neighbourhoods suffered damage in Villa Dolores, 50 people had to self-evacuate and there were blocked roads and fallen lamp posts; additionally, the storm interrupted electrical and water services in Villa Giardini, Rio Ceballos, Salsipuedes, Agua de Oro, Jesús María and Colonia Caroya. More than 200 people in Santa Fe Province were forced to evacuate. The cities of Rosario and Alvarez were the most affected, as overflowing channels left half of the city cut off and hindered the evacuation efforts. Provincial authorities reported up to one metre of water in dwellings, including the Volunteer Fire Department facilities, which had to be evacuated as well. The National Society is coordinating state assistance in the form of mattresses, blankets, food, bags and tarps; relevant Ministry of Health agencies are working on site.