Fireballs, roars and terror in Mendoza: this is how the people of Mendoza suffered the burning of more than 20 thousand cars

Balls of fire fell and illuminated the sky, like a dramatic light show. But they weren’t fireballs, it wasn’t a spectacle. They were hot, incandescent car parts, burning cans. A kind of bombing that sent the residents of La Favorita running. Four women live in Anabel’s house and they were all sleeping. “I heard an explosion and thought it was the water tank that had fallen through the zonda. I looked out the window; and it wasn’t the tank, everything was on fire. We left with what we were wearing to evacuate,” the woman recalls, and she points out: “It was the beach that was burning.” The explosions followed one another with a periodic rhythm: no less than half an hour between each other. “They looked like bombs,” they repeat. What they exploded were cars; mainly compressed natural gas tanks from the auto minefield that is the San Agustín Kidnapping Beach. The place caught fire on Friday morning and generated a social and environmental disaster. The fire spread to the neighborhood and many Mendoza residents lost their homes, all their material goods, and intensely inhaled many particles that, in reality, are already part of their lives.

Inside Anabel’s house there is a darkness deeper than the night. Everything is sooty, painted in such an opaque black that it makes it impossible to see even if the iris expands to its maximum. The house is still hot, the fire can be felt and there is a risk of collapse. As happens throughout the neighborhood, it smells like burning. A television turned into cans hangs on the wall; There was nothing left of clothes, furniture and, what hurts most, many memories were gone. The fire devastated the house and took away the present that they built with effort since they arrived from Peru, and part of their past. “We had nothing left. The photos from when we arrived in Mendoza from Peru, which we were very happy with, there was nothing left,” she says.

The interior of Anabel’s house is darker than night. Everything was burned, with an opaque soot that made it impossible to see even with the iris open to its maximum.

She, her daughters and her granddaughter spent the night under the open sky, with a candle for light and some blankets they lent her. “Let’s start again… we’ll be able to, there’s no other choice,” she says without resignation and with a realistic tone. There is something that gives her relief: thanks to the first explosion, Anabel woke up and opened the gate that she had locked from the inside. If a few more minutes passed, the fire would have reached them sleeping without being able to escape. Her hands are dyed and she hopes that as the days go by that varnish will go away. The rest will cost much more to delete

The house completely burned

It was a night of terror. In the middle of black smoke, thick, heavy and full of pollutants, families ran with what they were wearing. Some managed to love a backpack, others evacuated the place in their underwear. There were many who refused to leave. “I stayed because I wasn’t going to lose everything. I have my family’s things, the refrigerator with what I sell, the car…everything. I climbed onto the roof to pour water, I couldn’t see anything, part of the garden caught fire, but we saved most of it,” explains Pepo Garro. The man is one of the most famous ice cream makers in the city. Asthmatic, that thick smoke you inhaled is very bad. “You couldn’t see anything,” he remembers.

In San Agustín there are more than 25 thousand abandoned cars and tens of thousands of motorcycles. Laziness generates greater accumulation. In daily life, surrounding families live with vandalism, the smell of rust, grease, battery acid and other contaminants. But every now and then there is a catalyst that makes everything worse: fire. The “black smoke” that they inhale in each fire carries heavy contaminants, such as zinc and chlorine. Even some parts of old cars have asbestos, a highly polluting element, which released into the air increases its danger because the particles are inhaled and settle in the lungs. The pollutants released can affect people’s health, aggravating existing respiratory conditions and generating others. On the night of the black smoke from La Favorita, no exams were necessary. “It was all black, you could feel the polluted air in your mouth,” he explained.

Ciro, Uriel, Dilan, Antón and Bruno have something to talk about during school breaks. They are going to say that they had to get up quickly, pack a backpack quickly and run; quickly and without thinking. They also already know the final destination of at least a dozen soccer balls that they lost behind the wall that divides their neighborhood from Playa San Agustín. “They must have melted,” they say sadly.

Children play ball in front of San Agustín Beach, where 25 thousand cars burned. Every day they breathe the polluted air of the place. The balls that fell on the other side were also burned.

Every night the neighborhood children play soccer in the street. When a ball crosses the wall, they consider it lost because no one responds to their calls. The night of the fire, they woke up and ran. From feeling the taste of adventure, they moved on to fear. “I packed my backpack and that of my little brother with clothes, water, diapers. And we ran away. “Things were falling from the sky,” explains Uriel. “I was scared because the houses were on fire,” adds Antón. It’s Saturday night and they returned to the routine of chopping in the street. But there was also a new search: pieces of cars that flew and fell on fire, like dangerous meteors. There are bent metal sheets, amorphous pieces and even the door of a car that blew up a block.

The children have in their hands a ball and a piece of car that fell from the sky.

At least 25 houses caught fire in the Alto Mendoza neighborhood. More than 30 families were evacuated, but the day after revealed the complexity.

The focus of everything is the kidnapping beach that depends on the Ministry of Security. A mountain, a sea of ​​garbage that is increasingly dangerous. You can see it from the top of the hills. It is, in fact, what stands out the most from above. Without tons of oxidized metals, acids, hydrocarbons, rubbers, asbestos containers, benzene, xylene, ethylene, acetone and many more contaminants. It is believed that the fire started by burning cables to extract the copper that expanded and exploded through the zonda. The flames exceeded 10 meters; They devoured everything that existed and was being built.

The fire burned the present and the past of many families.

The mountain of vehicles is a monument to apathy. Relocation, compaction and other lies have been announced for decades. But the accumulation grows. The mayor of Capital, Ulpiano Suarez, once again warned about the issue. “We insist on the need to eradicate this beach, I regret that it has reached this extreme situation,” he said. “They have to remove the beach. Let’s organize ourselves so that they do it. It’s a constant danger, you can’t live like that,” said Susana, who lives with her ice cream maker husband in front of the San Agustín wall and has burns on her body from the “sparks” that flew the night of the fire, that night when there was balls of fire, smoke and fear in Mendoza.

*To help Anabel you can call 2615756743

Anabel assures that she will be able to move forward.

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