LA PLATA - At least 56 people were killed and 3,000 evacuated after flash floods hit the coast of Argentina, prompting President Cristina Kirchner to declare three days of national mourning.

Around 40cm of rain fell on La Plata in a short period late Tuesday night and during the early hours of Wednesday. Sixty-five kilometers away, Buenos Aires had earlier been hit by more than 15 centimeters of rainfall, says Clarin, which is where six of the fatalities occurred. Authorities have declared it the worst flooding in more than a century. 

“The death toll in La Plata increased to 48, of which 24 have still not been identified,” said Minister of Security Ricardo Casal at a press conference, adding that the figure could rise. “We’ve never seen anything like this, it’s an unprecedented situation,” declared state Governor Daniel Scioli.

The mayor of La Plata, Pablo Bruera tweeted that he too was helping out, posting old pictures of him helping people but it was confirmed by Aerolineas Argentinas that he was, in fact, in Rio de Janeiro – prompting a massive backlash on social media sites. He later tweeted that there had been an error with his communications team, clarifying that he would be back Thursday to help out, says Terra Argentina.

President Kirchner arrived to the worst affected areas on Wednesday afternoon, meeting with Governor Scioli, who stressed that a program to assist the victims needed to be put in place, as well as heightening the security in the area. There is a fear of looting and 400 police have been deployed to the area, writes La Capital.

Kirchner’s own mother was among those evacuated, reports La Nacion, and the President told victims in the worst hit area of Tolosa that she remembered that when she was young, her house flooded too.

The AFP writes that in a letter to the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis offered his prayers to all those affected by the climatic catastrophe in his country. 

Submerged cars, rescue teams, and were among the pictures that appeared on Twitter: