Peru fears disease outbreak amid flooding

Poor people who built their homes on land near rivers and ravines have been the hardest hit by the worst flooding to hit Peru in decades. Cement columns and parts of brick walls steeped in mud are all that is left of homes that once bordered the Rima
Cement columns and parts of brick walls steeped in mud are all that is left of homes that once bordered the Rimac River in Peru before it burst its banks last week.PHOTO: REUTERS
Poor people who built their homes on land near rivers and ravines have been the hardest hit by the worst flooding to hit Peru in decades. Cement columns and parts of brick walls steeped in mud are all that is left of homes that once bordered the Rima
Poor people who built their homes on land near rivers and ravines have been the hardest hit by the worst flooding to hit Peru in decades.PHOTO: REUTERS

Water and food in short supply as brutal rainy season forces thousands to leave their homes

CARAPONGO (Peru) • Between rows of plastic tents on the outskirts of Lima, Ms Martha Llanos takes her ration of rice and chicken alongside thousands of others who have been forced to leave their homes by the worst flooding to hit Peru in decades.

The 43-year-old mother of three said she was less worried about the loss of her makeshift home in the destitute district of Carapongo than she was about the health of her children. "My two-year-old daughter tells me, 'Mummy, my stomach hurts'," Ms Llanos said from the tent city that the authorities had set up for the displaced. "I don't have any medicine."

The spectre of diseases thriving amid pools of stagnant water in flooded neighbourhoods is one of a raft of problems Peru faces as it waits for an end to an unusually brutal rainy season.

More than 80 people have been killed and 110,000 displaced in rain-related incidents since last December, most of them this month after a sudden warming of Pacific waters off Peru's coast unleashed torrential downpours in a damaging local El Nino phenomenon.

In parts of Peru, including the capital, Lima, where a third of Peruvians live, schools have suspended classes, and running water is restricted after treatment plants were clogged with debris from mudslides. Damage to infrastructure has choked off transit and produced food shortages.

Poor people who built their homes on land near rivers and ravines have been the hardest hit. In Peru, about half a million people live on flood plains, according to a report by state water agency ANA.

"I used to have my business here, but the river swept it away," said Ms Veronica Ventura, a 33-year-old single mother, as she dug through the mud to find the bottles of soda she once sold from her house.

As rains continue to lash Peru's northern desert region and part of the central Andes, the authorities warn flooding may last into April.

The government has fumigated more than 200,000 homes to prevent outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

In Carapongo, cement columns and parts of brick walls steeped in mud are some of the remnants of homes that once bordered the Rimac River before it burst its banks last week.

Mr Victor Chuco, a 60-year-old taxi driver, said his family had to break through the iron roof of the house he built two decades ago to avoid drowning in it. "It caught us by surprise," he said. "I've lost everything, but at least I'm alive."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Peru fears disease outbreak amid flooding'. Print Edition | Subscribe