Argentina: Salta Floods (MDRAR015) DREF Final Report

Situation Report
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A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

Starting on 31 January 2018, severe storms dropped more than 200mm of rain in the northern part of the Salta province in north-western Argentina, which coupled with rainfall in the upper basin of the Bermejo and Pilcomayo Rivers (Paraguay-Bolivia border) caused a rise in water levels; additionally, discharges from the already high Chimeo River in Bolivia in turn caused flooding in Salta areas along the banks of the Pilcomayo River. Water levels far exceeded historical levels, triggering an alert and a corresponding evacuation.

More than 17,000 people were affected, of whom 7,000 were displaced and 100 people were left isolated and uncommunicated.

Overflows from the Pilcomayo River flooded entire areas, especially the indigenous communities of Wichi, Chorote and Toba. Localities such as Santa Victoria Este were left isolated, as flooding compromised the city’s containment rings. Flooding also affected communities’ livelihoods such as small livestock production (mainly goats, sheep and pigs), subsistence agriculture and fishing.

Water levels fell very slowly, making it difficult for families with flooded dwellings to return home. Some affected communities, especially indigenous ones had to relocate elsewhere as directed by their cacique (community leader), as is their custom; once they relocated, these communities were forced to identify other natural resources with which to resume livelihoods such as fishing, agriculture and animal husbandry.

Several stretches of Route 54 were damaged during the initial flooding and again around mid-operation, and national Road Service personnel were responsible for repairing the damage.

By the end of the operation, all the affected communities had returned to their places of origin, except for some Monte Carmelo and La Curvita residents who decided to resettle in a new location, and the government later installed basic services such as energy and water for these residents; some Santa María residents have chosen to resettle along stretches of Route 54.

Both the national and provincial governments are about to undertake infrastructural projects in affected localities to prevent future flooding from the Pilcomayo River; however, despite disaster prevention and preparedness efforts, indigenous groups from the Santa Victoria Este region and northern Argentina continue to be extremely vulnerable.

According to government indicators, 89 per cent of the population report some type of unmet basic need; furthermore, only 30 per cent have access to education, housing conditions continue to be very precarious (especially for relocated communities that will not be returning to their lands), health services are scarce and do not provide full coverage, and animal husbandry, farming and fishing practices remain at a subsistence level.