Some shoppers and employees at Plaza Patria thought they were being caught up in a tsunami as gallons of water poured into the mall during a heavy rainstorm Sunday evening.
The downpour, which flooded out around 15 ground-floor businesses and submerged 150 vehicles in the shopping mall’s underground parking space, was one of several incidents that left serious damages in Zapopan, the metro area’s largest municipality.
Thankfully, no fatalities or casualties were reported during the flooding.
Passengers scrambled to escape train carriages as water swept into the Tren Ligero (subway) Dermatológico station near the city’s periferico. Four young employees of a nearby bar, realizing the severity of the passengers’ situation, rushed to their aid, pulling them to safety with rope and even using a surf board and an inflatable shark to assist in the task. The quartet were later branded heroes for their selfless effort.
Around 110 homes in several neighborhoods – including 59 La Martinica, where three collapsed – were flooded out with some neighbors reporting the loss of all their possessions.
Three traffic underpasses were closed, with the water level in the tunnel at the Washington and 8 de Julio intersection reaching 50 centimeters. At least 50 trees also fell during the storm.
Traffic flow was interrupted on Avenida Lopez Mateos, after water levels reached dangerous levels in the Plaza del Sol area. Various other intersections, including Avenida Circunvalación and Alcalde, were also badly affected.
The intense downpour caused the canal running along the central divider of Avenida Patria, between Acueducto and Plaza Patria, to overflow its banks. More than 30 cars were pulled along by strong current as the water flowed into the lower floor of Plaza Patria, gushing down into the recently constructed below-ground parking lot underneath the new City Market store and submerging at least 150 cars parked there.
On Wednesday, standing water remained in the parking lot, which was policed by private guards and still off-limits to car owners and their insurance representatives.
Representatives of the plaza said Wednesday they would take financial responsibility for all damages to the vehicles. Reimbursement for losses sustained by businesses on the lower level would be evacuated on a case-by-case basis, they said.
The Tren Ligero (Siteur) also promised to compensate passengers for losses of personal belongings during the flooding of the train.
Authorities did not waste time in trying to apportion blame for the chaos provoked by the intense rainstorm, which began just before 7 p.m. and lasted for around an hour.
Zapopan city hall said the flooding of the mall was caused by the construction of the new Plaza Patria Tren Ligero station on adjacent Avenida Alcalde. Materials used in the project were blocking the Avenida Patria canal that continues its trajectory underneath Alcalde, they claimed. Zapopan City Hall immediately slapped a municipal closing order on work at the station, as well as the mall’s underground parking lot. (Guadalajara followed suit at La Normal station further down Alacalde.)
State officials swiftly rejected Zapopan’s evaluation, arguing that poor planning and defective drainage work during the recent reconstruction of the western end of the mall were largely to blame for the flooding. Sediments and deposits of earth, mud and other materials were also blocking drains situated along Avenida Patria, they said.
The northern section of the Line One Tren Ligero station will be closed for at least a week. It is unclear when the Plaza Patria underground parking lot will reopen.