Peru Floods and Landslides – 5 Regions Call State of Emergency

The heavy rain and resulting floods and landslides have prompted the government in Peru to declare a state of emergency in Tumbes, Cajamarca, Lima, Tacna and Moquegua regions over the last week.

Further rainfall has been forecast until 05 April 2015. Some river levels remain high, particularly in the north of the country, and alerts have been issued.

At least 22 people have been killed in floods and landslides since the heavy rainfall began around 22 March 2015. There are many people still missing. These figures are likely to change as more thorough assessments are carried out. Floods and numerous landslides have blocked roads, and authorities are yet to reach some of the affected areas.

Tumbes Region

As of 30 March 2015, the government of Peru officially declared state of emergency in the Tumbes region.

Heavy rainfall since 26 March 2015 has caused landslides, mudslides and increased flow of rivers and tributaries in the region in the country’s far north. The Tumbes and Zarumilla rivers have overflowed, damaging houses, roads and infrastructure in the three provinces of the region (Contralmirante Villar, Tumbes and Zarumilla).

At least 500 homes and hundreds of hectares of crops have been affected in several districts of the region, reported the regional president, Ricardo Flores Dioses,as quoted in local media. The technical secretary of the Regional Emergency Operations (COER), Eduardo Arbulú said that in this region there nearly 1,900 families affected by the rains.

Flooding has also caused widespread damage to crops in the region, affecting over 6,000 producers, according to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MINAGRI), who said that over 7,500 hectares of rice, organic bananas, cocoa and lemons have all suffered damage.

On 29 March 2015, Peru’s meteorological agency, SENAMHI, recorded flow of the Zarumilla river to be 1362.07 m3 per second, which is the highest recorded since last year and more than twice the normal flow.

INDECI, Peru’s civil protection agency, has recommended that residents living in areas along the Zarumilla river to relocate to safe areas on higher ground.

Cajamarca Region

La Republica are reporting that at least 14 people have died in landslides in Cajamarca region since the recent heavy rains began.

Five people died in a landslide in Nuevo Horizonte, Sócota, and three in a landslide in Santa Cruz de Cutervo. Landslides and floods have destroyed roads and have made areas of the region inaccessible. On the road linking Cutervo to Jaén there have been as many as 30 landslides. La Republica say that other victims died as they were unable to reach a hospital and receive medical care in time. Districts including Choros, Sacilia, Cujillo, Toribio Casanova, La Ramada and La Capilla are either completely or partially cut off.

On 28 March 2015, the central government declared a state of emergency lasting 60 days for 21 districts affected by heavy rains, floods and landslides in Cajamarca region.

The affected districts include Jaén, Colasay, San Luis de Lucma, Choros, Socota, Callayuc, Cutervo, La Ramada, Santa Cruz, Toribio Casanova, Santo Domingo de La Capilla and Querocotillo.

Local media say that around 15,000 people near Jaén have been cut off after a river overflowed, blocking an important road. INDECI say that 232 families in Jaén have been made homeless by the floods and landslides.

Almost 4,000 hectares of crops have been damaged in Chota and Cutervo provinces in the region.

Lima Region

In Lima region, landslides occurred in the district of Lurigancho-Chosica on 23 March, killing eight people and injuring 25, while another six people were still missing and over 150 houses were destroyed, as of 24 March 2015.

Media say that as many as 13 landslides have been recorded in Chosica since 23 March 2015. The floods and landslides were caused by torrential rainfall on 23 March 2015 which, according to some reports, lasted or over 6 hours.

Flood and landslide damage in Chosica, Lima, Peru, March 2015. Photo: Practical Action
Flood and landslide damage in Chosica, Lima, Peru, March 2015. Photo: Practical Action

Another landslide occurred in Huarochiri province of Lima on the same day, injuring 30 people and destroying 110 houses.

The landslides blocked major roads linking Lima to the central Andes. Chosica also suffered severe flooding after the Rimac river overflowed. Levels of the river have since started to fall, according to a report of 31 March 2015 from SENAMHI.

Rimac river, Peru, March 2015. Photo: Practical Action
Rimac river, Peru, March 2015. Photo: Practical Action

The road has since re-opened and a state of national emergency was declared in Chosica surrounding areas on 25 March 2015 in order to allow quicker access to relief and repair funds. The President of Peru and local authorities have visited the zone and are assisting the affected population in coordination with INDECI and other state authorities.

Practical Action Flood Resilience Project

Practical Action, the development charity, currently has a team of people working in the Chosica district of Lima.

Colin McQuistan, policy and practice advisor on disaster risk reduction and climate change said: “The fatalities have been from informal communities located high up in the river basin. They have been hit by both mud avalanches and erosion of the land on which they live.

Flood and landslide damage in Chosica, Peru. Photo: Practical Action
Flood and landslide damage in Chosica, Peru. Photo: Practical Action

“This is a poor area of Lima. Along the river temporary and unofficial housing is growing and coming ever closer to the river bank. We have been working with the municipal government and local community leaders to put in place reliable effective methods of evacuation, to ensure housing is better able to withstand this type of event and to improve the ability of people to recover their livelihoods after flooding or landslides”.

Practical Action has been working in the affected area for the last few months, initiating a project designed to make those living on the banks of the Rio Rimac more resilient to flooding and better prepared to cope when a disaster strikes.

Improved river embankments along the Rimac river, Peru. Photo: Practical Action
Improved river embankments along the Rimac river, Peru. Photo: Practical Action

About the project, Colin McQuistan said:

“Unfortunately, the project is still in its early stages and our work has mainly been with communities lower down the river basin and not those affected by the landslides. So while we have not been able to prevent the loss of life this time, we believe that in future people near to the Rio Rimac will be far better equipped to survive such floods.

“It is ironic that this has happened just days after the World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan where we argued strongly that urban development must take into account climate change and the threat of disasters such as flooding.

“Poverty, vulnerability and disasters are linked”

“Poverty, vulnerability and disasters are linked – it is most often the poorest that are worst affected and suffer most. Their poverty makes them more vulnerable. Their capacity to cope with disasters and recover from the effects are constrained by their lack of resources. But if their risk is managed then dramatic flood events need not turn into tragic disasters.”

The project is one of a number Practical Action has been implementing in communities vulnerable to climate change throughout the world as part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance programme.

Video of the floods in Chosica, Peru:

Tacna Region

Heavy rain resulted in floods and landslides in district of Ilabaya, province of Jorge Basadre in Tacna region on 26 March 2015. Houses, roads, infrastructure and crops have all been damaged. Peru’s central government has since declared a state of emergency for the district.

Moquegua Region

The government has also declared a state of emergency in the province of General Sánchez Cerro ; and the province of Mariscal Nieto, in the Moquegua region.

Forecast and Alerts

Further rainfall is expected until 05 April 2015 at least, although the rain is unlikely to be as intense as previous weeks.

SENAMHI have issued alerts of Level 2 or 3 for the regions of Ancash, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Huancavelica, Huanuco, Junin, La Libertad, and Pasco.

Moderate rain forecasts from 01 to 05 April 2015 in some areas of Peru. Image: SENAMHI
Lvele 3 (Orange) and Level 2 (yellow) Alerts. Moderate rain forecast from 01 to 05 April 2015 in some areas of Peru. Image: SENAMHI

SENAMHI say that levels of the Tumbes, Chira, Piura and Jequetepeque rivers are all high and, as of 31 March 2015, are still increasing. A red alert remains in place for these rivers.

Areas of Peru Affected by Floods, Heavy Rain and Landslides

The infographic below shows the areas of Peru affected by the recent severe weather.

areas affected by floods in Peru, March 2015
Image: La Republica