La Plata, 54 km from Buenos Aires, 750,000 inhabitants. On 2nd and 3rd April 2013 about 400 millimetres of rain led to a greater flood than had ever been seen before. More than half the city was submerged – in some places it was more than 2 metres deep. The previous day something similar, though on a smaller scale, struck Buenos Aires and some of the surrounding towns. The 59 deaths (6 in Buenos Aires, 2 in the surrounding towns and 51 in the city of La Plata) still trouble people and make them fear for the future. Despite all this, people’s solidarity swung into action yet again, meeting the victims’ the urgent needs.

The cries and the practical acts of the people were felt as never before… or, perhaps it would be truer to say, they were clear as they always are when such tragedies strike. Caritas, Red Solidaria, the Red Cross, various NGOs, neighbourhood committees and parishes, as well as others, immediately repsonded and in a short time they set up more than 500 collection points for things of prime necessity: clothing, mattresses, bottled water, bleach, nappies, food, blankets. On Saturday 6th in front of Buenos Aires Cathedral there was a queue about 400 metres long of people waiting to give their contributions. These were then taken in heavily laden trucks (on that day there were 19) to the various parishes in the hardest hit parts.

Besides these very noticeable things, thousands of others were done, whether on small scale or large, and they are coming to light bit by bit. There were people who, quite literally, gave their lives to save others, people who made themselves available to lend a hand or give time to help anyone who needed it, wherever they needed it, ready to do whatever was needed.

The tragedy did not discriminate between better or worse off areas. The young people, who were tireless, were the ‘attack force’ in the work of classifying all the donations that arrived, distributing them, helping clean houses, clearing away tons of debris and rubbish piled up in the streets.

Once again social networks were the vehicle for immediate communication. For example, the Facebook group ‘Focolares La Plata’ right from the start carried messages asking for help, with news of everyone in the community: those whose houses were under water, those who offered help, those who offered to take children to school (a large number of cars were submerged)… a true current of solidarity and mutual love.

Pope Francis, when he heard about the situation, telephoned the provincial governor who offered a grant of 50,000 dollars for the victims.

Such gestures of solidarity happen when others are seen to suffer. This kind of solidarity does not tire and provides relief, especially when tragedy seems to destroy everything. Now that the moment of greatest commitment is over, it is a matter of being careful of the needs of the poorest.

Carlos Mana, Argentina

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