31 March 2007

End of the wait?

I don't usually write on Saturdays, but this will be brief anyway. Yesterday after I came home, I learned that the Ludueña Stream was on the brink of overflowing. It was drizzling all afternoon. At about 5:30 PM my mother, my aunt and I went to check the stream by ourselves. We walked about 10–12 blocks from home and saw this:

As you surely noticed, there were other watching as well (in fact, a crowd). The stream comes from the west of the city in a canal, and at this point it is piped underground. The pipes were built in the 1990s. I don't remember the exact date, but I do remember myself as a teen watching a huge hole with several excavators working down there to make room for the pipes.

After this we walked another 10 or so blocks east, towards the river. A few hundred meters before the mouth of the stream, the pipes end and the stream enters a new canalized section. This was the view there:

(The massive building in the second picture is the Portal shopping mall, which opened in 2004. I don't think they imagined the stream could rise so much.) Again, there were a lot of people exchanging rumours, speculating and doing folk math about the level of the stream. The experts (the real ones) were warning that a rise wave was coming from the west and would reach our area around 8 PM. I heard the White Helmets had been sent to Rosario and were assisting the people; they were giving out thousands of sandbags, candles and other supplies.

We went back home in a taxi. The driver was a Malvinas veteran; he said he was going to end his shift and head for an evacuation center, where he and the other vets have been working for the refugees. My mother went to a meeting in the community center, to get some updated info and advice. The head of the municipal Hydraulics Department was there. She came back with passably good news: the stream was fairly stable as of the latest measurement, and as long as there was no more rain and it remained like that during the night, everything would go well. Moreover, the Hydraulics guy told the neighbours that the river would have to rise to a ridiculous level to stop the outflow of the stream, and that we shouldn't judge the behaviour of the stream by the water level near its mouth, since that was highly variable, and the last section was in fact like 5 meters below our neighbourhood's elevation.

Anyway, we got candles and food, and I let a couple of friends know about our plight just in case. We sat down to eat dinner. At 9 PM my father went to the community center to learn the updated measurement of the stream. It was stable. The sky was clearing a bit and there was a chilly wind; we saw the moon for the first time in a week. We went to sleep.

It's all gray, chilly, very humid and slighly drizzly today. The stream is lower than yesterday and heavy rain seems very unlikely. There are about 4,000 evacuees in Rosario in 7 emergency sites, but they'll be able to go back home soon, or so they say. The situation in Santa Fe City has worsened; they have 20,000 evacuees, they don't have enough large facilities for them, and the rain continues up there.

The wait has been terrible, but it seems to have ended for us. The public works that so many people fought for have done their job. In 1986 there were 160 mm of rain in a few days, and my part of the neighbourhood was flooded by 70 cm of water. Since last Monday it rained 487 mm. That's two or three times the average for the entire month of March, something that will not repeat itself (we hope) in decades. And we didn't get flooded.

I've been reporting the situation to NowPublic.com (where I can upload large pictures and videos freely, unlike Flickr!). Other people have been uploading videos on YouTube. Check those out.


  1. Pablo – is the tap water drinkable at the moment? Or do you normally only drink bottled water anyway (as I do in BsAs – I don’t care for the taste of the “Rio” water).

    You mentioned earlier that vaccines had been brought in for the evacuees – is that for Hepatitis A, which surely must be a hazard in places where sewage lines have overflowed.

    I imagine if the temperatures remain warm that the mosquitoes will be back with a vengeance, considering all the stagnant water that will persist.


  2. I don't usually drink bottled water. The tap water is as drinkable as ever. I haven't noticed anything funny about it, and neither have the ones in charge of checking that.

    Very occasionally (not now) the tap water comes out with a noticeable chlorine taste, and then I prefer bottled gas water.

    Yes, the evacuees got vaccines for Hepatitis A and a couple more, though I think those were only for the children.

    I don't want to think about the mosquitoes... It's been cooler these days, but not nearly cold enough.

  3. Thank you for your description of what you experienced last week. My daughter lives in Rosario but I cannot reach her nor by phone nor by email. We visited her in february. She showed us your city. Some of your photos show places we have visited.
    Thank you again.
    Stef, from Holland


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