Once-Submerged Town Resurfaces

Argentina village was under water for 25 years

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 10, 2013 5:02 PM CDT

(Newser) – A strange ghost town that spent a quarter-century under water is coming up for air again in the Argentine farmlands southwest of Buenos Aires. Epecuen was once a bustling little lakeside resort, where 1,500 people served 20,000 tourists a season. During Argentina's golden age, the same trains that carried grain to the outside world brought visitors from the capital to relax in Epecuen's saltwater baths and spas. Then a particularly heavy rainstorm followed a series of wet winters, and the lake overflowed its banks on Nov. 10, 1985. Water burst through a retaining wall and spilled into the lakeside streets. People fled with what they could, and within days their homes were submerged under nearly 33 feet of corrosive saltwater.

Now the water has mostly receded, exposing what looks like a scene from a movie about the end of the world. The town hasn't been rebuilt, but it has become a tourist destination again, for people willing to drive at least six hours from Buenos Aires to get here, along 340 miles of narrow country roads. People come to see the rusted hulks of automobiles and furniture, crumbled homes, and broken appliances. It's a bizarre, post-apocalyptic landscape that captures a traumatic moment in time.

Former resident and tourist guide Norma Berg walks by a street in Epecuen, a village that once was submerged in water in Argentina.
Former resident and tourist guide Norma Berg walks by a street in Epecuen, a village that once was submerged in water in Argentina.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
Trees line a road seen through a car in Epecuen.
Trees line a road seen through a car in Epecuen.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
The earth is cracked in Epecuen, which once was submerged in water in Argentina.
The earth is cracked in Epecuen, which once was submerged in water in Argentina.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
A car sits in ruins in Epecuen, a village that once was submerged in water in Argentina.
A car sits in ruins in Epecuen, a village that once was submerged in water in Argentina.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
Buildings in ruins in Epecuen.
Buildings in ruins in Epecuen.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
Birds fly over the village of Epecuen, Argentina.
Birds fly over the village of Epecuen, Argentina.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
The village of Epecuen, or at least what's left of it after flooding in 1985.
The village of Epecuen, or at least what's left of it after flooding in 1985.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
A young tourist stands on stairs protruding from the rubble of homes in Epecuen.
A young tourist stands on stairs protruding from the rubble of homes in Epecuen.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
Pablo Novak sits on his bike in Epecuen.
Pablo Novak sits on his bike in Epecuen.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
Ruined buildings in Epecuen, Argentina.
Ruined buildings in Epecuen, Argentina.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
Tombs in the ruins of Epecuen, Argentina.
Tombs in the ruins of Epecuen, Argentina.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
Trees are reflected in the water in Epecuen.
Trees are reflected in the water in Epecuen.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
That's a toilet amid the ruins of Epecuen.
That's a toilet amid the ruins of Epecuen.   (Natacha Pisarenko)
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