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Catastrophic floods devastate Peru, raising death toll to 72

catastrophic-floods-devastate-peru-raising-death-toll-to-67

Heavy rain has been affecting several areas of Peru over the past four days, particularly its northern regions, causing deadly floods and wreaking havoc on the country's infrastructure. By the end of Saturday, March 18, 2017, the death toll since the start of the wet season has climbed to at least 72. Authorities are describing the floods as the worst since 1998 when 374 people were killed.

More than 70 000 people have been left homeless and 500 000 affected as intense rains unleashed more than 10 times as much rainfall as normal, even for Peru's wet season. Authorities have declared a state of emergency in about half of the country, particularly in the north.

According to local media, as of early March 17, 12 people have died in the region of Lima due to floods and landslides. Drinking water is suspended in the capital Lima, whose desert climate rarely leads to rain, triggering a shortage of bottled water.

"The magnitude of the emergency and the number of places where there are people stranded are so numerous that sometimes it seems that there are not enough troops, but we are making the effort," said Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio.

The rainy season has already damaged 115 000 homes, destroyed more than 15 000 hectares (37 065 acres) of crops, over 1 000 km (620 miles) of roads and 117 bridges.

The death toll since December 2016 has reached 72.

In a statement broadcast live Friday afternoon, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said the country is confronting a serious climatic problem. "There hasn't been an incident of this strength along the coast of Peru since 1998,'' he said. That year, rains left hundreds of people dead.

Kuczynski declared Peru's Central Highway in a state of emergency Friday and announced he would add more funds for reconstruction. 

"This hasn't ended," he said and urged residents to use caution.

Meteorologists said the intense rains are caused by the warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean. They warned heavy rains are expected to continue for another month.

Featured image: Heavy rains cause catastrophic floods in Peru – March 2017. Credit: Euronews

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