"I am not responsible for the floods", quickly replied to reporters Mr. Carlos Alberto Reutemann, Santa Fe Gov. and former F1 ace. "We are facing an unprecedented rise of El Salado River, and I feel like it won't be normalized soon". Reutemann's laconic description is not enough to show the full picture of a catastrophic situation, tens of thousand of people is living now in his Province.
A combination of an unprecedented spate of rivers and heavy rains overwhelmed local authorities, clearly unprepared to face the contingency. At least four were killed and over 100,000 fled their homes to find a provisional cover in hospitals and schools located in cities' highest areas. The national Government and other provinces offered aid to Santa Fe, fearing an increasing in the number of casualties and evacuated.
According to local officials, the Capital of the Province, Santa Fe City, is isolated and waters reached main public buildings, including the Palace of Government. The only way to reach the Capital is by air or through the underwater tunnel that links Santa Fe to Resistencia, on the other side of the Parana river. This turns the situation even more dramatic as it is not clear whether the aid will reach the affected areas or not.
Entire neighborhoods disappeared under the water. Biggest city stadiums have three or four meters of water. The local media shows images of people on boats through the streets of Santa Fe going from place to place at houses' roof level. Lights went out on Tuesday, there is not drinkable water available and neighbors denounce shortage of food and clothes. Estimations say 150 people are still disappeared.
People in Buenos Aires and other country's main cities collect food, clothes, bed clothes and anything of help to send to Santa Fe, as local authorities cannot provide with aid to the population. Also, local health officials say the floods have also caused a dramatic increase in hepatitis and gastro-intestinal illnesses.
According to specialists, 1,400 millimeters of water fell all along the last four months and more rains for this week are expected. President Eduardo Duhalde, who described the floods as a "national catastrophe", has called a cabinet meeting and dispatched two ministers to the scene.
The area hit by flooding is in Argentina's soybean producing region, in country's Northeast.
Local civil defense officials said in some areas the rivers had risen by as much as 50 centimeters in 12 hours.