Argentina province under water months after blazes

The combination picture shows an area affected by floods in an area of Corrientes, Argentina, on April 17, top, and a wildfire that has spread to cover more than 500,000 hectares underscoring the impact of dry weather due to the Nina weather pattern in the area on Feb. 15.

CORRIENTES, Argentina (Reuters) — Argentina’s northeastern province of Corrientes has been hit by widespread floods, leaving cattle fields under water and inundating roadways, just months after widespread wildfires ripped through the region and burned important wetlands.

The floods began in the week beginning on April 10 after torrential rains for about seven days, mainly in the towns of San Luis del Palmar and Ituzaingo, near the provincial capital some 800 kilometers north of Buenos Aires.

Images from a Reuters visuals reporter showed areas covered in water that had been scorched and engulfed by fire amid a prolonged drought at the start of the year. In places, animals that fled flames were forced to swim through the deluge.

“We came out of the fire and a month later a flood hit us,” Orlando Bertoni, head of Civil Defense Operations of Corrientes, told Reuters. Still, he added, the water was a relief despite road closures and having to evacuate some residents.

“It is welcome because there was a lack of water. But we have to be careful that it does not continue to rain. The big problem was the fire, which scorched everything, left everything burned. This rain has brought good relief.”

The heavy rains of some 500 millimeters in a few days did not affect the provincial capital badly due to better drainage, but caused flooding in fields and rural towns, where streams overflowed their banks on their way to the mighty Parana River.

The fires that devastated the province from January to March affected more than 1 million hectares, leaving millions of dollars in losses and damaging protected plant and animal wildlife in Ibera National Park, an important wetland.

“Where we had the area most affected by the fires, we’ve now had loads of rain,” Bertoni added.

The rains have abated in recent days, however, allowing water to drain and relieving some of the flooding.

“The water is running away, it is draining and it is slowly going down,” Daniel Bertorello, commander of the Corrientes Volunteer Firefighters, told Reuters. “Hopefully the beautiful weather continues.”