Two chain reaction accidents due to a dust storm and winds of up to 75 km/h in central Argentina left at least two people dead and dozens injured. The incidents happened Monday due to poor visibility caused by the weather, one of them on a national highway in Santa Fe province and the other along a provincial road in Córdoba province.
The first accident involved at least 30 cars going in both directions and left one person dead in San Jerónimo Sud, a small town in southern Santa Fe. According to local firefighters who took part in the rescue, the deceased is an elderly woman who was traveling in one of the cars. An unspecified number of injured people were taken to hospitals in nearby cities.
The second incident near Río Segundo city in Córdoba also involved numerous cars that crashed due to the poor visibility caused by the storm. Police reported that a 65-year old man died and at least 17 others were injured. One of them will reportedly require surgery, but the rest are considered to be out of danger.
According to a report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), sand or dirt storms happen when strong winds drag large quantities of dust in dry areas where there is an abundance of land without obstacles.
“[These events] are common meteorological occurrences in dry and semidry areas. They’re caused by storms, or strong pressure gradients associated with ciclones, which increase wind speed over large areas.”
According to meterologist Jorge Fusco, these events are not uncommon for this time of year in Argentina. “We’re in a transitional period, where cold fronts continue appearing and stirring up dust and dirt whenever they move over areas affected by drought,” he told Télam news agency.
“Temperatures in the northern and central regions of the country begin to rise during this time of year. This means that masses of hot air with low pressure are meeting opposite masses of cold air with high pressure. This pressure differential is what’s causing the wind,” he added.
Specialists recommend that whenever drivers encounter a dust cloud and have less visibility, they reduce car speed to the mandatory minimum and use flashing lights, but avoid stopping either on the road or the shoulder.
– with information from Télam