We are in Argentina, in the 1920’s: Villa Epecuén and its nice salt lake are a popular tourist destination for Buenos Aires vacationers.
Arriving by train, visitors can relax in luxury quarters after taking advantage of the therapeutic waters of Lago Epecuén.
This mountain lake is unusual because its waters are saltier than any ocean, in fact, it is second only to the Dead Sea in salt content, and people suffering from depression, diabetes, and similar come to soak in its healing waters. The therapeutic powers of Lake Epecuen have been famous for centuries, and it is said that Epecuen (or “eternal spring”) can cure also rheumatism, skin diseases and anemia. According to a local legend, the lake was formed by the tears of a great Chief crying for the pain of his beloved. Tourists, especially people from Buenos Aires’ large Jewish community, enjoyed floating in the water, which reminded them of the Dead Sea in Israel. The same waters that would eventually the cause of the village’s ruin….
In 1985, a long period of heavy rains sent the lagoon bursting over its banks: this was what can be described as a freak occurrence, a rare weather’s joke developed over Villa Epecuen causing a seiche (standing wave) in the lake. The seiche broke a dam and then shoved its way through the dike. The devastation was slow, an inevitable flood that gradually devoured the entire village, submerging it under more than 10 meters of briny waters. The town had 280 businesses, with lodges, guesthouses, hotels and businesses, centred around the tourist trade. So, 1.500 residents fled their homes, 280 businesses and countless houses disappeared under the surface like a modern-day Atlantis.
Only in 2009 drier weather allowed the waters to retreat enough for the town to reemerge. The damage was total, and the village was considered only a disaster area offering no incentive to rebuild. What remains now is a misterious ghost town with rows and rows of dead, naked trees, decayed buildings, and an entire landscape seemingly bleached out and stripped to the end by the once-healthy salt waters that have consumed everything in sight.