Storm rocks Eastern Argentina, killing 15 people

By December 19, 2023

Buenos Aires, Argentina — Fifteen people were killed as strong winds and heavy rain rocked the southern part of the Buenos Aires province in Argentina over the weekend. 

President Javier Milei traveled to Bahía Blanca, the epicenter of the storm’s damage on Sunday 17, and Buenos Aires’s governor, Axel Kicillof, declared a state of emergency for several areas of the province. 

On Saturday, a strong storm hit Bahía Blanca, 600 kilometers (370 miles) south of the capital Buenos Aires, bringing heavy rainfall and wind gusts up to 180 kilometers per hour (112 miles per hour). Downed trees and powerlines left Argentines in the area without power for over two days. 

The storm knocked down a wall in a local gymnasium full of people attending a roller skating event. Thirteen people were killed and a dozen or so more injured in the structure collapse. The gymnasium, Club Bahiense del Norte, is famous in Argentina for being the hometown gym for a young Manu Ginóbili, the NBA star. 

The collapsed gymnasium at Club Bahiense del Norte. Image courtesy of Infobae.

Other structures including an Evangelical church and a soccer facility for Club Tiro Federal were also damaged. 

Bahía Blanca Mayor Federico Susbielles asked people to be careful and avoid the streets as there were many downed trees and cables. 

The storm hit the capital of Buenos Aires 

On Sunday morning, residents of the capital of Buenos Aires and its outskirts woke up to hundreds of downed trees, shattered windows and power outages in some areas. 

Two people from the Buenos Aires metropolitan area lost their lives in the storm, including one in Moreno, 38 kilometers from the city and another in Cañuelas, an hour’s drive south.

A number of concerts and parties were taking place in the early morning hours when the storm hit. During La Bresh, a concert series that was taking place in Estadio GEBA in the Palermo neighborhood, the stage and a tent crumbled, leaving three people injured.

Viral videos of the evacuation show the structures falling and a huge inflatable teddy bear blowing around in the wind. Another 15 people were injured at an event in the city’s horse track.

Videos from the airport showed stairs and commercial planes being pushed by heavy winds. 

On Sunday 17, President Milei traveled to Bahía Blanca to assess the damage alongside Defense Minister Luis Petri and Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich. “I am perfectly confident that you will be able to solve this situation in the best possible way with the existing resources,” the president told Governor Kicillof.

A crisis committee has been set up to help evacuate people, take resources to the city’s hospital and evacuation centers, and the province of Buenos Aires is extending aid to other areas of the province where the storm hit hard. 
More than 300,000 people were affected by power shortages during and after the storm in the metropolitan area, while around 135,000 still didn’t have power as of Monday.