Rescuers have found the bodies of the two Uruguayan tourists who had gone missing after a mudslide fell on a top-class hotel in Bariloche in the Argentine province of Río Negro, it was announced Wednesday, bringing the death toll up to 3 victims.
Víctor González Giovanelli had been found dead on the same day of the tragedy, while his sister Alba González Giovanelli and her husband, Orlando Casella, were not accounted for, until Wednesday. All three were Uruguayan tourists who had arrived at the Villa Huinid hotel Monday only hours before the avalanche.
Three other people were still hospitalized, Víctor González's widow being one of them and is reportedly out of danger.
At three o'clock in the morning on Wednesday, rescuers found the bodies of the two Uruguayan tourists who had been intensely searched for since the incident occurred. The bodies were taken to the morgue for the autopsy, which will be carried out today, informed the Public Prosecutor's Office of Río Negro.
Casella (67) had won US$4.5 million in the Uruguayan lottery's New Year's Eve jackpot and as a result of the coronavirus pandemic had to postpone his trip.
Río Negro Governor Arabela Carreras, toured the Nahuel Hue neighborhood in Bariloche, affected by the heavy rains. What we have to understand, so that it remains as a debate after these situations, is that we are intervening nature more and more in mountain areas, we are desertifying the area, the absorption capacity of the land decreases because we all build on the mountain, she said.
Carreras added that this is having effects that cause, for example, the municipal government to channel the water and damage other areas and also climate change that surprises us with extreme episodes.
Between 6 pm and 2 am, personnel from the Melipal Volunteer Fire Department, the Usar Patagonia team, and personnel from the Military Mountain School were working on the removal of debris from the room where the passengers were supposedly staying, explained San Carlos de Bariloche Civil Defense Director Patricia Diaz.
During nine hours they removed about fifty tons of earth, debris, stones, and trees, and after nine hours of work, they found the passengers who were missing. The clearing was done manually, with buckets, creating a handrail with the intervention of the Army and the Fire Department, she added.
According to Díaz, the structure of the hotel was in good condition. She also praised the professionalism of the members of the User Patagonia Team, as well as of the Military School of Mountain and Firefighters in these works.
Diaz added that the tourists staying at the hotel had been relocated to another building in the complex and that they received medical attention and psychological support, which was later denied by some guests who said they were told to find healthcare help on their own.
Meanwhile, Uruguay's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that representatives of the family -who traveled to the area in the early hours of this morning- are already in Bariloche and are being accompanied by the Consulate General of Uruguay. On the other hand, a meeting was held with the Prosecutor's Office in charge of the case in order to get to know the details and to thank [those involved] for the work being done.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs - through the Office of Assistance to the Compatriot and Community Services, the Embassy of the Republic in Argentina and the Consulate General of Uruguay in Buenos Aires - remains attentive to the news that may arise in the coming hours, the statement went on.
Bariloche Mayor Gustavo Gennuso expressed his condolences to the relatives and friends of the deceased and thanked the rescue teams who worked in an intense and coordinated way.
Activists who staged a demonstration May 29 marking National Army Day to defend the premises of the Juan Perón Mountain School from being handed over to Mapuche groups claiming ancestral right over the lands insisted on the importance of such a deployment in the area from federal forces, which would be lost if the Supreme Court in Buenos Aires upholds the ruling evicting the national troops.