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Single mom puts her four children on a table as flood waters rise to her waist, “Stand there,” I told them, as I prayed

My children raised their arms into the air desperately asking me to take their clothes off, which became encrusted to their bodies.

  • 2 months ago
  • April 6, 2024
7 min read
Corrientes was put underwater when rains overwhelmed drains and systems collapsed, leaving over a thousand people displaced and homes flooded. | Photo shared with permission from the El Litoral de Corrientes newspaper Corrientes was put underwater when rains overwhelmed drains and systems collapsed, leaving over a thousand people displaced and homes flooded. | Photo shared with permission from the El Litoral de Corrientes newspaper
Journalist’s Notes
Interview Subject
Belen Acevedo, 37, of Corrientes, is the single mother of four small children. She struggles daily to secure their future. When the rainstorms hit Corrientes in early March 2024, while her home was not completely destroyed, she was left with nothing. She says she will not give up and together with her community they are trying to rebuild everything.
Background Information
Deficiencies in infrastructure, the precariousness of land tenure, and a population living in informal settlements amidst the presence of garbage dumps and flood zones, mark conditions of spatial segregation and social marginality in places like Corrientes. All these factors, together with the devastating effects of climate change, have increasingly clear consequences. It is only necessary to observe what is happening in recent months on our planet. Natural disasters are playing an alarming role. The climate horror has not only revealed water as a protagonist. Fire has devastated thousands of hectares in its path, and many countries have recently been affected by severe heat waves that has raise thermometers to record temperatures. For experts, there is a clear culprit behind these extreme weather events: global warming.

CORRIENTES, Argentina ꟷ On a mostly clear day on March 3, 2024, only a few clouds dotted the sky amidst an intense, light blue backdrop. However, when evening came, a dull gray color washed out the blue as clouds spurred a light drizzle of rain. I went to bed.

The next morning, my four children and I slept soundly at home when suddenly, the rain began to pour non-stop. It looked like nothing I ever saw before. Before I knew it, the water burst into my house. I had no time to lift any of our belongings from the floor. My children began to scream and cry in fear. “Please, do not get out of your bed,” I told them. The flood was more than rainwater. It contained waste like sewage, insects, vermin, sharp objects, and tree branches.

She placed her children on the table one by one as she prayed for the flood to stop

As the water rose, everything began to float around us. Food from the kitchen floated alongside clothes, toys, notebooks, and pencils. Since the kids were about to start school, all their supplies had been out. “Don’t get down from there,” I shouted again, the water already reaching my knees. Crying, I took what I could as my tears fell into the infinite water. If I tried to say anything else, I knew my voice would simply crack.

The uncontrollable water continued to flood in and reached the mattresses. It drew stains on their surface which grew bigger and bigger. “What do I do,” I wondered. I noticed the appliances, like the refrigerator and television, plugged in and I began to panic. Suddenly, the power went out everywhere, burying us in absolute darkness.

The water rose more and more until I felt utterly terrified. Fear paralyzed me for a moment as I listened to the sound of the rain falling and winds of more than 140 kilometers whipping around us. This unstoppable storm would surely take everything it could. Outside, I heard items flying and crashing while my neighbors screamed and cried in despair.

The floods swept through streets and houses while the winds blew down roofs, poles, walls, trees, and signs. Some areas were practically completely underwater. I lifted my children one by one and placed them on the table. The water reached my waist by then and the sheer terror shone on their faces. “Stand there,” I told them as I prayed for the water not to reach them. A foul smell filled the air, and it felt like we were in a horror movie.

Neighbors come together in utter silence to eat their first meal as the rain fell lightly

After several hours living this hellish nightmare, the water began to recede. I shook like a leaf as what felt like an unstoppable electricity flowed through my body preventing me from being still. The light of the sun began to shine and I could see all that was lost. Exhaustion set in.

Rotten mud stuck to our skin and all of our belongings. We lost everything except the clothes on our backs. My children raised their arms into the air desperately asking me to take their clothes off, which became encrusted to their bodies.

Even now, the sounds and images from that day play like a loop in my mind. When the flooding stopped, a wave of pressure hit my chest and I tried to hold back tears, but I could not. Outside, I saw the devastation; my neighbors lost everything like me. Some climbed to the roof for shelter during the floods. Others had to be evacuated, including a pregnant woman who went into labor.

Cars floated in the murky waters and people began moving about in boats through the streets. I heard stories of children swept away and drowned as their mothers tried to carry them. In some places the water reached their shoulders.

My neighbor and I sprung into action, organizing a soup kitchen through donations. Everyone felt hungry and dinner that day took place in complete silence. All of us felt our strength drain away as the rain continued to fall lightly. We saw lightening in the distance and from time to time, the clap of thunder interrupted the silence. Sirens from the civil defense and cries still rang out. With each noise, we shuddered together.

The recovery process from the floods in Corrientes is long and slow

That same night, someone brought us mattresses but there were only enough for the children. We spent the first night at home, making our way through the dank mud. I slept on my wet mattress while the children slept on the donated ones.

Exhaustion overcame me and I fainted into sleep despite the fear I still felt. My body ached and every now and then, I awoke startled. “How am I still here,” I wondered. Then I would curl up in a ball, crying or screaming with my face buried in the mattress. I made sure the screams absorbed into the wet cushion, so I did not wake my children. A very deep sadness settled in.

Even now, several weeks later, we need so much help. The people lack everything. Reconstruction began but the process is moving very slowly. The physical and mental toll remains visible on all of us. The natural catastrophe that started on March 4 caused a collapse of the drainage systems and in a very short period, the region became an underwater deluge.

Nothing could stop the great storm. That day it rained 300 millimeters in four hours. That’s like unloading a 500-liter tank into a kitchen sink all at once. Everything collapsed. Nearly 1,000 people from Corrientes spent those early nights in evacuation centers and schools. I feel fortunate to, at least, still have my house.

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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