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Flash floods take dramatic toll in Lima, northern Peru

AFP  |  Lima 

El Nino-fueled flash floods and landslides hit parts of Lima, leaving some communities cut off from roads today, as others fled rising rivers and millions fretted that they won't have drinking water.

Peru's geographic extremes help fuel the often deadly force of the mudslides, known locally as huaycos, the indigenous Quechua word for flash flood-landslide.


The South American nation of over 30 million has plenty of extremes: its Pacific coastal deserts in the west are interrupted by the steep, soaring Andes, famed for the Inca people and Machu Picchu in the south. Further east, Peru has hot Amazon basin lowlands.

The tremendous steepness of the mountains combined with many areas that are rocky and sandy but lack the level of topsoil found in more temperate places, mean fewer trees are there to stop mudslides.

After weeks of heavy rain came sweeping toward the coast, it filled many riverbeds in coastal areas that went from empty to overflowing in no time. Some residents on the outskirts of the capital of 10 million people awoke yesterday to the realization their bedrooms were filling with water.

Others found themselves cut off by mudslides that blocked portions of the main highway linking Lima to the center of the country.

In one dramatic scene, rescuers used zip lines to help residents of Lima's Huachipa neighborhood escape over the torrent of brown water that was once their street, as it swallowed up cars and trucks.

The floods have been triggered by El Nino, a warming of surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that wreaks havoc on weather patterns every few years.

But this year it has hit Peru particularly hard.

"It's a difficult situation, there's no doubt about it. But we have the resources" to deal with it, said President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

The government announced it would release 2.5 billion soles (USD 760 million) in emergency funds to rebuild affected areas.

Over half a million people were getting assistance.

While Peruvians have been dealing with huaycos for centuries, many poor residents of cities and towns build makeshift homes in areas that they may not realize could be a flash-flood zone.

At times, authorities do tell different groups to move, but they voice frustration that they have nowhere to go. And authorities' presence in the poorest peripheral districts, many perched on mountainsides, can be inconsistent.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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