Economy, climate, and citizens shaken after Peru’s floods

By: Alexis Lee, News Writer

Peru’s worst floods in nearly 30 years have taken more than 72 lives over the last several days. The rains have finally stopped, but forecasters expect the unusual weather to continue through April.

This unstable weather has been classified as an effect of a phenomenon called El Nino, or “The Child.” This irregular occurrence is defined as changes in climate that greatly affect the equatorial regions, commonly resulting in rises in sea temperature and water evaporation. The sea surface temperature off Peru’s northern coast, specifically, was measured to have an increase by up to six degrees, thereby making the sea temperatures exceed eighty degrees Fahrenheit. This, in turn, brought about increasingly heavy rains in Peru that devastated much of the country.

Peru, recently having gone through a severe drought, was already going through troubled times. There were food and water shortages in the region, and the severe weather caused prices to increase by an average of 5%. A mother of five, Sara Arevalo, commented on the inflation as she was grocery shopping at a market in northern Lima, “The prices for lemons have gone up, as well as for potatoes and cooking oil.”

Peru’s desert climate rarely sees rain, so the intense series of flood left the area in crisis. The rains caused the drainage systems to become overwhelmed and overflow, leaving the roadways as large rivers. The Andean hillsides had mudslides triggered, and the surrounding rivers were also overflowing.

Over 800 cities declared a state of emergency, and armed forces were deployed to assist Peru law enforcement in maintaining law and order while residents were being directed into safety. The majority of those affected were the poorer community, often owning temporary, makeshift houses incapable of surviving the severe weather. Residents, sometimes leaving their homes with a single plastic sack of personal belongings, were directed one-by-one across the flooded roadways by trailing a rope. “We need more and better bridges; we need highways and cities with drainage systems,” stated General Jorge Chavev, coordinator of the government’s response. “We can’t count on nature being predictable.” The cities along the Pacific coast and the health ministry have started fumigating the areas of pooled water to kill the mosquitos that have herded upon the damp conditions. This was critical for the prevention of spreading illness such as dengue, a viral disease causing sudden fever and acute joint pain.

Unfortunately, the tragedy continued. In Lambayeque, a juvenile detention center had 22 escaped inmates. And then in Trujillo, a cemetery was flooded, washing bones throughout the streets. The rains also left hospitals inundated, villages isolated, homes deserted, and much of the infrastructure destroyed. Nearly 100,000 Peruvians, as stated by the National Emergency Operations Center, had lost everything since the El Nino climate patterns began earlier this year, and over 600,000 more Peruvian residents have recorded damages to their homes. Thousands were left homeless.

The capital of Peru, Lima, has not seen precipitation since Monday, March 20, and now the city is beginning to be restored. President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has promised $774 million in government funds for emergency aid for the nation. “We must help each other in solidarity with those who are victims,” he stated. The president recently suffered through a massive scandal, decreasing his popularity and sparking fights with opponents, but lawmakers agreed to avoid controversy with the Kuczynski, so he could focus on restoring the nation and helping victims of the current floods.