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The Government is Unprepared as Peru's Heavy Rains Unleash Lethal Landslides

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Vehicles caught in the avalanche in Chosica. Photo by Adrian Johemir Fernandez Yauri on Facebook.

As expected, the rainy season in the Peruvian highlands has been severe. Seven people have lost their lives in landslides caused by the rain in the town of Chosica, near Lima. The landslides resulted in extensive damage and shed light on the local and central government's lack of emergency response and planning in a known vulnerable disaster zone.

Chosica's Mayor, Luis Bueno, who has been in office for 20 years, was criticised for allowing houses to be built in disaster-prone areas, and for not taking the necessary measures to minimize damage caused by landslides, year after year.

The local Internet started reporting landslides in several populated areas of Chosica, 47 kilometres east of the capital Lima, on the afternoon of March 23:

Lamentable the casualties today in Chosica. What hurts most is that it could have been avoided.

Roads closed, classes suspended

The next day there were more landslides and the collateral damage spread all the way to Lima, where prices of goods shot up:

Be careful, electricity is cut off in Chosica. The roads are obstructed.

Suspended classes in Chosica until the weekend, due to landslides

This is the Main Highway at this moment … completely blocked.

The roadblock is increasing the value of some products in the markets of Lima…

The blog Info5News describes the situation in the affected areas:

Bastó tres horas de lluvias para que 13 quebradas a lo largo de la Carretera Central se activaran y, con ello, pesadas rocas, lodo y agua cayeran sobre los sectores ubicados en las faldas de los cerros […] Rayos del Sol (km. 35), [es] el punto más crítico. Al menos 500 metros de pista, en esta zona, ha quedado sepultada por enormes rocas y lodo, cuyo volumen alcanza hasta 10 metros de altura en algunos tramos.

It took only three hours of rain for the 13 streams along Central Highway to overflow causing heavy rocks, mud and water to fall on the areas located at the foot of the hills […] Rayos de Sol on km 35. [is] the most critical point. At least 500 meters of the road, in this area, has been buried by huge rocks and mud, the volume reaches up to 10 meters high in some areas.

Houses in disaster prone zones

The damage caused by the landslides would be less severe if there weren't houses in the areas prone to landslides:

Unfortunately, there are many houses located in the endangered zones without precautions for a landslide

Just like the private company relocated Morococha, the state should relocate those living in the landslide zone in chosica

Landslide is a natural phenomenon but the disaster is caused by urban development that has ignored the danger 

Chosica's Mayor, Luis Bueno, who has been re-elected six times in a row, was the focus of much criticism:

The houses are built with the permission from the local government, meaning more votes for Bueno

Now you can see where the votes to maintain Chosica's Mayor Luis Bueno in office for 20 years came from 

The government's response

Lima’s Mayor, Luis Castañeda, who was travelling abroad, was also criticised by his political opponents.

Students get trapped inside school because of landslide in Central Highway. 

Where is Casrañeda? “Landslides in #Chosica: the situation is critical at the Inca Kola zone.

@EZegarra3 Si castañeda es culpáble del Huayco!! entonces porque no fue culpable Villarán durante 4 años??

— Peru Poltica (@entodas01) March 23, 2015

If castañeda is guilty for the landslide !! Why was Villarán not blamed for 4 years ??

Teniente alcalde de Lima inspecciona zonas afectadas y supervisa trabajos de recuperación en Chosica. pic.twitter.com/mHXV9nQVwG

— Muni de Lima (@MuniLima) March 24, 2015

Lima's Deputy Mayor inspects affected areas and supervises the recovery effort in Chosica.

Even President Ollanta Humala was criticised for not going to Chosica quickly enough. At the time of the landslide, the President was in the north of the country.

Humala in San Martín inaugurating public works, anyone know if he has been in Chosica?

Humala get the army on the streets to help our brothers in need. Get to work!

Para qué piden la presencia de Humala en Chosica? Si no ha hecho nada para prevenir un desastre inminente. Que puede hacer ahora?

— Pietro Vidella (@FCOUnderground) March 25, 2015

Why ask for the presence of Humala in Chosica? If he hasn't done anything to prevent an impending disaster, what can he do now?

Ollanta Humala declared a state of emergency in Chosica and announces relocation. The newspaper Correo: Ban the construction of houses in the river's flooding areas.

Helping those in need

Beyond the political wrangling that takes advantage of moments like this to tarnish opponents, and the slow reaction from authorities, there are hundreds of affected families in great need. Apart from the help already being provided by several state institutions, people are also organizing themselves to assist people in Chosica.

Jeremiah Luis Saavedra has gathered a series of public and private events to help people affected by the landslides. He reflects:

Nuevamente EL HUAYCO se lo llevo todo, muertos y heridos, casas y bienes, muchos piden ayuda mientras otros buscan culpables, pero aún sigue el temor en la zona de que esto pueda volver a repetirse. En en transcurso de la historia de nuestro Perú, año tras año vemos en los medios de comunicación noticias que narran desastres naturales que sin duda afectan a miles de familias, pero ante tantas malas noticias diarias ¿Es el peruano una persona pasiva ante la desgracia ajena? ¿Es que ya no sentimos nada cuando vemos a personas perdiéndolo todo por situaciones extremas?

Again THE LANDSLIDE took everything, houses and property, caused death and damage. While many ask for help, others look for someone to blame, but everybody is afraid that this could happen again. Historically in Peru, year after year, we see in the media reports about natural disasters affecting thousands of families. With so many bad news we ask ourselves: Does the Peruvian have a passive attitude towards another person's misfortune ? Do we no longer feel sympathy when we see people losing everything in those extreme situations?

It is likely that the El Niño phenomenon which causes global changes in temperature and rainfall, will make the rain season even longer in Peru this year. And Chosica is not the only vulnerable disaster zone within Peruvian territory.

Post publicado originalmente en el blog Globalizado.

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