Peru has declared a state of emergency as the country prepares itself for the worst weather system set to sweep across the nation during the past 60 years.
The “El Niño” weather front is caused by irregularly occurring and complex climatic changes, as the air currents linking the atmosphere and Pacific Ocean have begun to warm up. The global effects of El Niño include changes in wind patterns across the Pacific, drought in Australasia, and unseasonal heavy rainfall across South America.
The phenomenon is so named after Jesus Christ, normally arriving during the last few months of the year.
According to experts, heavy rainfall will hit Peru in November and March next year, set to produce extensive flooding and burst already swollen riverbanks.
“We are working together with the Water Board and local governments, who know the vulnerable zones and own machinery which will enable us to begin preventative works as soon as possible,” commented governor of Lima, Nelson Chui Mejía.
The heavens opened
Cristina Inga, a resident of Moyopampa some 45 kilometers from Lima remembers how a sunny afternoon last March turned into 30 minutes of torrential rainfall.
“After the rain there was a silence followed by terrible thunder and lightening,” the 63-year-old resident told BBC Mundo.
Her house was destroyed, as flooding swept across the region accompanied by landslides.
“We survived by escaping onto the roof,”
“All of the neighbors did the same, we all helped each other,” she remembers.
Raising the dead
Around 107 municipalities, housing some three million people have been declared “vulnerable” by Peru’s government, already having invested some $914,000 in measures against the weather front – which has hit all sectors of the economy.
El Niño caused 500 deaths and a fall of six percent in the country’s GDP from 1997 to 1998.
In 2008 the phenomenon quite literally raised the dead in the coastal town of Trujillo, as heavy rain saw coffins and decomposing bodies float into the town’s main square, La Información reports.
But will government incentives really be able to help those most in danger? Certainly residents are aware of the risks posed by the weather front, but it can often take years for rural communities to fully recover from extreme weather conditions, destroying homes, businesses and crops.
Increased awareness and preparation means that some residents have more of a chance when the rains do arrive.
“I trust in God, he always has the last word.” Cristina adds.