Thousands forced from their homes

Torrential rain flooded a section of northeast Argentina and forced tens of thousands of people from their homes, including 1,000 Church members.

The devastating inundation was the result of 48 hours of continual rainfall on April 29-30 that dropped 20 inches of water. Much of the damage was centered in the city of Santa Fe, where Church members were enlisted to rent inflatable rafts and rescue people from roofs, including two pairs of full-time missionaries.

Although the flooding has caused significant property damage, there was no loss of life among members and missionaries, said Church Welfare Services spokesman Garry R. Flake.

Nineteen people were killed in the flooding, and that count could rise, according to El Cronista Regional, a local newspaper. The publication reported a wave of water "four meters high" bursting into one Santa Fe neighborhood, carrying with it all in its path, including people.

It is believed to be the worst flooding in the region's history.

Although a few member families have returned to their homes, most were still seeking refuge elsewhere at press time. Some 460 members and 90 others had sought shelter at one of four Church-owned meetinghouses in Santa Fe, located about 150 miles west of Uruguay. Generators were brought in to provide power at each of the chapels.

The Church has moved quickly to help. Members in Buenos Aires were expected to prepare 5,000 food boxes to be shipped to the Santa Fe area. Medicine is also being purchased, Brother Flake said.

"We are also shipping three containers of winter clothing from the [Church] Humanitarian Center," in Salt Lake City, he added.

Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy, president of the South America South Area, said the members in the Sante Fe area are doing all they can to help one another.

"I am astonished by the quickness of the response of the Church and its leaders in the application of welfare principles," Elder Jensen said.

Brother Flake is optimistic most of the impacted members will eventually be able to salvage their homes.

Elder Jensen said it is too early to know how the flooding will impact the already struggling long-term economy of the area, "but it's enormous."

[email protected]