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Cyclone Yaku – Peru’s first cyclone in 40 years and El Niño Costero leave 54% of the country under a state of emergency

In early March 2023, Peru was hit by Cyclone Yaku — the country’s first cyclone in 40 years. Its impact coincided with the beginning of the El Niño Costero phenomenon, extending the rainy season and leading to large-scale floods and landslides which forced the Government of Peru to declare a state of emergency in over half of the country. Heavy rains and flooding are expected to continue until June.

The cyclone was described by the director of civil defense, César Sierra, as an unusual phenomenon causing intensifying rains in the north.

According to the National Institute of Civil Defense (INDECI), as of March 10, 2023, the flooding caused by the cyclone has left at least 6 people dead and 5 missing. Yaku severely damaged 2 077 homes, 13 educational centers, 35 health establishments, 2 700 means of transportation, and 4 730 irrigation canals.

Unfortunately, the cyclone’s impact coincided with the beginning of “El Niño Costero” — or Coastal El Niño, which led to a prolonged rainy season, large-scale floods and landslides, and the declaration of a State of Emergency in 1 030 districts, 54% of the total districts across the country, due to the heavy rains, floods and landslides.

El Niño Costero, also known as the Coastal El Niño, is a climatic phenomenon that occurs in the eastern Pacific Ocean, particularly along the coasts of Peru and Ecuador. It is characterized by the localized warming of ocean surface waters, which in turn influences the atmosphere and leads to changes in weather patterns, including increased rainfall and storms in the affected regions. El Niño Costero is different from the more widely known El Niño phenomenon, which is a broader, larger-scale event that affects global climate patterns.

El Niño Costero is the result of interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, specifically the weakening or reversal of the normal trade winds that blow from east to west along the equator. This can lead to a buildup of warm surface waters along the coast, which then affects atmospheric circulation and local weather patterns.

The impacts of this phenomenon can be quite significant in the regions it affects. Increased rainfall, flooding, and landslides are common, leading to extensive damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and the environment. These events can also have serious consequences for the people living in these areas, causing displacement, loss of livelihoods, and food scarcity.

The Coastal El Niño is typically a more localized and shorter-lived event than the larger-scale El Niño. While El Niño events typically occur every 2 – 7 years and last for several months, the El Niño Costero can occur more frequently and last for a shorter duration.

sea surface anomaly april 4 2023 el nino costero
Image credit: MUR SST/NASA EO. Acquired on April 4, 2023

As of April 13, 2023, the Humanitarian National Network estimated that 517 000 people are in urgent humanitarian need in the country, with over 114 900 households affected. A staggering 83% of the 1.5 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Peru are located in the most impacted areas, and their migrant or refugee status often limits their access to basic services.

The Connecting Business Initiative partnered with Hombro a Hombro (eng. Shoulder to Shoulder) NGO to mobilize the local private sector, conduct damage assessments and distribute aid in hard-to-reach areas, including Paita, Piura, Tumbes, and Lambayeque, as part of the humanitarian response efforts.

Additional activities undertaken by Hombro a Hombro and its partners include coordinating private sector donations of over 368.61 tons of humanitarian aid, comprising non-perishable food, water, water purifiers, hygiene items, and cleaning supplies. These items are donated to the population through INDECI.


On April 18, INDECI reported that 54 districts on the northern coast and in the mountains are at risk of being affected by landslides and other types of mass movement due to moderate to extreme intensity rainfall expected through April 21.

Meteorological warning N° 84 (red level) from SENAMHI predicts moderate to extreme precipitation, including snow, hail, sleet, and rain, on the north coast and north-central highlands of Peru from April 22 to 23. The affected areas include the departments of Amazonas, Áncash, Cajamarca, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Piura, and Tumbes.

Expected rainfall values are above 45 mm/day (1.77 inches/day) in the northern sierra, 14 mm/day (0.55 inches/day) in the central sierra, and over 60 mm/day (2.36 inches/day) in Tumbes and the coast of Piura, accompanied by thunderstorms and wind gusts up to 35 km/h (21.7 mph).

Localized hail may occur above 2 800 m (9 186 feet) a.s.l., and snow above 4 000 m (13 123 feet) a.s.l.

INDECI urges local and regional authorities to ensure evacuation routes are clear and directs the population to safe areas. It also recommends reinforcing home roofs and establishing early warning systems in coordination with local authorities.

Heavy rains and flooding are expected to continue until June.

ssta april 21 2023 el nino costero bg
Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly for April 21, 2023. Credit: Earth NullSchool, The Watchers


1 Peru faces first cyclone in 40 years: Local business network is an integral part of the response – Connecting Business Initiative – April 20, 2023

2 Cyclone Yaku hits Peru, leaving 6 people dead, 5 missing, and over 2 000 homes severely damaged – The Watchers – March 13, 2023

3 54 distritos de la costa norte y sierra norte-centro se encuentran en riesgo por precipitaciones – INDECI – April 18, 2023

4 INDECI recomienda medidas de preparación ante continuidad de precipitaciones en la costa norte y sierra norte-centro – INDECI – April 20, 2023

Featured image credit: Exitosa Noticias (stillshot)


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