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The Ruins of Villa Epecuen

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Back in the 1920s, a tourist village was established along the shore of Lago Epecuen, a salt lake some 600 kilometers southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The resort town, named Villa Epucuen, soon had a railroad station, and it thrived for several decades, peaking in the 1970s with a population of more than 5,000. Around the same time, a long-term weather event was delivering far more rain than usual to the surrounding hills for years, and Lago Epecuen began to swell. In 1985, the salty waters broke through an earthen dam, and Villa Epecuen was doomed. A slow-growing flood consumed the town until it reached a depth of 10 meters (33 feet) in 1993. The wet weather later reversed, and the waters began to recede in 2009. AFP photographer Juan Mabromata recently visited the ruins of Villa Epecuen, met its sole inhabitant, and returned with these images. [20 photos]

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Aerial picture of the ruins of Villa Epecuen, some 600 km southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina, taken on May 3, 2011. The highly saline water of Lago Epecuen has receded in recent years, after flooding the village in 1985 and and submerging it under 10 meters (33 feet) of salt water for nearly 25 years. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)
Aerial picture of the ruins of Villa Epecuen, some 600 km southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina, taken on May 3, 2011. The highly saline water of Lago Epecuen has receded in recent years, after flooding the village in 1985 and and submerging it under 10 meters (33 feet) of salt water for nearly 25 years. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)
From the air, the layout of the streets, homes and businesses of Villa Epecuen are still visible. Photo taken on May 4, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
The outlines of Villa Epecuen, Argentina, still partially flooded by Lago Epecuen. Photo taken on May 4, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
Dead trees, ruined buildings and a rusty vehicle have recently emerged from the receding Lago Epecuen. Photo taken on May 4, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
May 4, 2011 aerial image of the former lakeside resort of Villa Epecuen, Argentina. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
The former slaughterhouse of Villa Epecuen, Argentina, among a stand of long-dead trees, photographed on May 4, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
A view down a former street among the ruins of Villa Epecuen, Argentina. In its heyday, Epecuen was home to more than 5,000 residents and nearly 300 businesses.(Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
Norma Berg gestures next to the ruins of her family house in Villa Epecuen, Argentina, on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
Jumbled ruins of the formerly submerged Villa Epecuen, Argentina, seen on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
Ruined buildings and a rusting vehicle in Villa Epecuen, Argentina. Photo taken on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
Rusty bedframes poke out of the rubble of a building in Villa Epecuen, Argentina on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
A thin layer of salt, cracked, revealing the original paint of the wall of a collapsed building in Villa Epecuen, Argentina, on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
A staircase to nowhere, among the ruins of Villa Epecuen, Argentina. Photo taken on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
Lone inhabitant of Villa Epecuen, 81-year-old Pablo Novak tends his wood stove at his on May 3, 2011. Novak is the only one of some 1,500 original residents to have returned to the Villa. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
Dead trees, killed by the influx of salt water, in Villa Epecuen, Argentina on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
Detail of the front end of a ruined vehicle after more than 25 years of being immersed in salt water. Photo from Villa Epecuen, Argentina, on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
A ghost forest at dusk in Villa Epecuen, Argentina, on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
The tangled ruins of Villa Epecuen, at sunset on May 3, 2011. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
The road leading to the cemetery of Carhue, near Villa Epecuen, at sunset on May 4, 2011. Parts of Carhue, including its cemetery, were also affected by the flood that kept Lago Epecuen underwater for years. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #
A man compares a photograph of Villa Epecuen taken in the 1970's with the current state of the place, after almost 25 years beneath the water of Lago Epecuen. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images) #

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