Argentine ghost town re-emerges from under water

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EPECUEN, Argentina -- A strange ghost town that spent a quarter-century under water is coming up for air again.

Epecuen, in farmlands southwest of Buenos Aires, was once a bustling little lakeside resort, where 1,500 people served 20,000 tourists a season. During Argentina's golden age, the same trains that carried grain to the outside world brought visitors from the capital to relax in Epecuen's saltwater baths and spas.

The saltwater lake was particularly attractive because it has 10 times more salt than the ocean, making the water buoyant. Tourists, especially from Buenos Aires' large Jewish community, enjoyed floating in water like that of the Dead Sea in the Middle East.

Then a particularly heavy rainstorm followed a series of wet winters, and the lake overflowed its banks on Nov. 10, 1985. Water burst through a retaining wall and spilled into the lakeside streets.

People fled with what they could, and within days their homes were submerged under more than 30 feet of corrosive saltwater.

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Many residents of Epecuen fled to nearby Carhue, another lakeside town, and built new hotels and spas.

Now the water has mostly receded from Epecuen, exposing what looks like a scene from a movie about the end of the world. The town hasn't been rebuilt, but it has become a tourist stop again, for people willing to drive at least six hours from Buenos Aires along 340 miles of narrow country roads.

People come to see the rusted hulks of automobiles and furniture, crumbled homes and broken appliances. They climb staircases that lead nowhere.

It's a bizarre, post-apocalyptic landscape that captures a traumatic moment in time.

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