Practical Action currently has a team of people working in the Chosica district of Lima, after at least seven people were killed by flooding and landslides.
The team has been working in the affected area for the last few months, initiating a project designed to make those living on the banks of the Rio Rimac more resilient to flooding and better prepared to cope when a disaster strikes.
The floods and landslides have been triggered by the El Niño event, causing intense rainfall over the last few days swelling the Rio Rimac. The unexpectedly heavy rains have also forced authorities to open dams in the upper watershed further exacerbating the already dangerously high flood levels. More people are missing, feared dead.
Colin McQuistan, policy and practice advisor on disaster risk reduction and climate change said: “The fatalities have been from informal communities located high up in the river basin. They have been hit by both mud avalanches and erosion of the land on which they live.
"This is a poor area of Lima. Along the river temporary and unofficial housing is growing and coming ever closer to the river bank. We have been working with the municipal government and local community leaders to put in place reliable effective methods of evacuation, to ensure housing is better able to withstand this type of event and to improve the ability of people to recover their livelihoods after flooding or landslides.
“Unfortunately, the project is still in its early stages and our work has mainly been with communities lower down the river basin and not those affected by the landslides. So while we have not been able to prevent the loss of life this time, we believe that in future people near to the Rio Rimac will be far better equipped to survive such floods.
“It is ironic that this has happened just days after the World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan where we argued strongly that urban development must take into account climate change and the threat of disasters such as flooding.
“Poverty, vulnerability and disasters are linked - it is most often the poorest that are worst affected and suffer most. Their poverty makes them more vulnerable. Their capacity to cope with disasters and recover from the effects are constrained by their lack of resources. But if their risk is managed then dramatic flood events need not turn into tragic disasters.”
Landslides from steep slopes above the river areas have covered dozens of homes with mud and the strength of the flood water has placed a number of bridges under threat. Many areas have been evacuated and local plazas have been used as evacuation areas for temporary shelter for those affected.
The project is one of a number Practical Action has been implementing in communities vulnerable to climate change throughout the world as part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance programme.
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