Muddy water spilled onto streets and into homes on Thursday in a new round of unusually heavy rains that has killed at least a eighteen people in Peru and now threatens flooding in the capital Lima. The intense rains and mudslides over the past three days have wrought havoc around the Andean nation and caught residents in Lima, a desert city of 10 million where it almost never rains, by surprise.
In one of the more dramatic incidents, stunned residents watched and took out cell-phone cameras as a woman escaped after being swept into an avalanche of mud, wood debris and farm animals about 53 kilometers south of downtown Lima.
Evangelina Chamorro, 32, had just dropped her two daughters at school and was feeding her pigs alongside her husband when they were pulled into a landslide. Armando Rivera, Chamorro’s husband, told RPP radio they climbed a tree but the trunk broke. They held on to each other’s hands but Chamorro eventually lost his grip and got separated.
She emerged near a bridge, lifting herself from a current of wooden planks and walking toward the shore covered head to toe in mud.
“There’s a person there!” an onlooker cried out.
Chamorro collapsed as she reached land and was quickly carried by several men to an ambulance. She sustained only minor injuries.
Authorities said Thursday they expect the rains caused by El Nino, which generates a warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, to continue for another two weeks. Thus far, officials say a total of 62 people have died and 12,000 homes have been destroyed in storms this year.
In Lima, the swelling Huaycoloro river swept away two trucks and threatened to destroy a bridge. Schools nationwide have suspended classes. And seven of the nation’s most dangerous criminals were temporarily transported to another facility after a river near the prison threatened to overflow.
President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said that authorities are prepared to provide shelter and relief to those left homeless.
The mayor of the affected Nuevo Chimbote area is Valentin Fernandez. “There are no classes in all of Nuevo Chimbote, half a meter of water remains in forty public high schools. We don’t have electricity, we don’t have drinking water. Traffic is at a standstill because we have flooded streets and we cannot go to any other location except Chimbote.”