Perú has had its share of natural disasters and emergencies over the last few weeks due tothe “el Niño” weather system that is affecting the Pacific Ocean in the Southern Hemisphere. Just like Australia has had unusual weather with unseasonable storms and rain, so too has Perú had storms and heavy rain. This would be bad enough, if it didn’t also involve areas that NEVERhave rain (well maybe once every few hundred years). Major cities like Trujillo, Piura (“the land of the eternal sunshine”), Ica and the desert areas of Nazca, the surrounding mountains around Lima, and other regional areas have been severely affected by heavy rain. Archeologists speculate that some ancient civilisations in Perú were actually destroyed or abandoned because of catastrophic weather events.
Not only has there been heavy and persistent rain, but it is also important to understand that due to it hardly ever raining the houses in these areas don’t have roof gutters or down pipes or even drainage in the streets. So when it does rain there is nowhere for the water to go, other than rushing down the streets and into houses (together with the back up overflowing sewerage). Eventually it runs into (usually) dry river beds. Typically they are shallow and broad, so they quickly overflow and water spreads into surrounding areas.
So that brings us to Lima. It has not rained in Lima itself, apart from a few drops one morning. But because of the rains in the surrounding mountain areas the major rivers that run through Lima to the ocean have flooded many parts of the city. Now these are not rivers of rushing water, more like liquid mud and debris. One of these rivers, Rio Rimac, flooded into the city’s water supply. As a result the water supply to Lima was cut off for nearly a week, whilst authorities worked hard to both repair the water filtration plants and storage areas, as well as try to prevent more inundation.
We had no flooding where we live, but the impact on us was that our water supply was cut off for a week. However, our building actually has a tank or cistern under the basement with enough water for the building for about 3 days. We drink bottled water anyway, but we bought some extra drinking water to use for washing and cleaning. Together with our neighbours we tried to limit how much water we used (no washing machines, 30 second showers, quick washing of dishes, etc). Fortunately our little portable air-conditioner dehumidifies the air and drips (relatively) clean water into a bucket. Leaving it on most of the night produces about two thirds of a bucket. We were able to use this to do some hand-washing of our clothes. So, we were able to survive before the water came back on, without too much hardship.
Whilst we were relatively unaffected spare a thought for the Peruvian citizens in the more affected areas of the country. As of the figures we saw earlier in the week:
- 639,000 Persons Affected
- 75 Dead
- 18,000 Uninhabitable homes
- 119,000 Affected homes
- 7,000 Hectares of cultivated land lost
- 928 Affected Schools
The Church has provided considerable humanitarian assistance to the affected communities. All of the missionaries are safe and accounted for. However, there was some concern after one was washed in a bus, with his companion left standing on the side of the road. It was assumed the worst had happened, but the next day he managed to call and say he was safe and well after being checked out at a hospital.
Finally, an update on the road being widened next to our office. The final touches to at least half the road were done over the last week. The telephone poles in the middle of the road were actually removed, the road was flattened, and we walked to work one morning to discover that large slabs of concrete had been laid in sections for the road. (the one that was dug up was bitumen). Over the next fewdays further sections of concrete were laid. It all came to a screaming halt on Friday, when they decided they had to dig more big holes . We are not sure why, but they must have found something that needed to be done. At least it wasn’t through a section of concrete that had already been laid. The new concrete road will obviously be slippery when it rains!