Argentine flood inflicts $1 billion in damages

UNDP participated in a recent UN interagency assessment of a devastating flood in Argentina's northern provinces that estimates the damages at about US$1 billion.
The flood, which struck after heavy rains in April, hit hardest in Santa Fe City, where surging waters from the Salado river drove up to 100,000 people from their homes and almost totally inundated the city.

The devastation affects one of Argentina's poorest regions at a time when the country is coping with a crippling economic crisis that limits the Government's ability to provide support for reconstruction.

The assessment, carried out at the request of Carlos Reutemann, Governor of Santa Fe province, estimates that the damage amounts to 12 per cent of the province's GDP. It puts the impact on the province on par with the effects of the earthquake that struck El Salvador in 2001 and the "El Niño" ocean current on Latin America's climate.

The hardest hit economic sectors are agriculture, dairy farming and livestock. Impoverished neighbourhoods and communities bore the brunt of damage to homes and infrastructure. The interagency group included representatives from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, UNDP, UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization.

"This type of catastrophe can happen again because the area is vulnerable and the economically-disadvantaged population is not prepared," said Albina Lara, UNDP environment and development officer, at a forum at the UN Information Centre in Buenos Aires on the impact of the flood.

Contingency plans are needed to reduce vulnerability, she said. "We need to promote a culture of prevention, with collection and management of relevant data and zoning regulations for the city and riverbanks." Lessons learned in Santa Fe can help improve the management of future environmental crises, said Ms. Lara.

The interagency group, in cooperation with provincial and municipal authorities in Santa Fe, has proposed a reconstruction project that includes $4 million for home repairs and $15 million for building new homes. The project also includes steps to create jobs, a fund to rehabilitate commercial and industrial facilities, and short, medium and long term plans for renovating the city's public and private infrastructure.

For further information please contact Itziar Abad,, UNDP Argentina, or Victor Arango, ,UNDP Communications Office.