All over the world, there have been news broadcasts showing the horrible flooding and landslides that have officially put Perú in a state of emergency. More than 70 lives have been claimed, hundreds are left missing, and over 100,000 people are now without homes. The situation is devastating to say the least, and I am truly heartbroken for the people of this beautiful country. It will be a very long recovery process.
When the flooding began, I was at a Peace Corps training event with a member of my community in a coastal town of La Libertad called Huanchaco. I was surrounded by Peace Corps staff and volunteers when we received the news that we were on “Stand Fast,” meaning we could not leave our current locations until otherwise notified. The community member I was with really needed to get back to his family in my site 8 hours south of Huanchaco, so he decided to attempt the journey. The trip from my site to Huanchaco is typically one 3 hour bus ride to the capital of Ancash then one 7 hour bus ride to Trujillo, and one 20 minute cab ride to Huanchaco. I called to make sure that my community member was okay, and he answered from a boat that was quickly put together due to a bridge collapsing along the way.It took my community member 2 days with 4 different cars and a boat. That was when I realized the extent of the situation.
Conditions grew continually worse in Huanchaco, so the Peace Corps moved our group of volunteers to a safe hotel in Trujillo, the capital of La Libertad. Every morning, the streets were engulfed in clouds of dust so we were forced to cover our faces with medical face masks to avoid inhaling the polluted air.
Every afternoon, huaicos or landslides, flooded the streets of Trujillo and we watched as people struggled to walk and drive through the roads turned rivers. The huaicos are a result of the El Niño phenomenon, which is caused by the warming sea temperatures of the Pacific Ocean.
There were no available flights out of Trujillo, so after one week stuck in Trujillo, the Peace Corps chartered a plane for all of the volunteers to get to Lima safely.
The Peace Corps also announced that they would have to evacuate all volunteers serving in the regions Piura, La Libertad, and Lambayeque due to severe damage in those regions that will take a long time to repair. Those volunteers will be evacuated to the United States for up to 45 days while the Peace Corps assesses sites and next steps.
Meanwhile, I will be heading back to Ancash tomorrow because it has been assessed as a safe place. However, once I return to site, I will still be on “Stand Fast” through the entire month of April. This means no ground transportation is permitted and I must remain in my site, which has been assessed as safe.
Overall, I am safe and well, just sad for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering right now in Perú. For ways to help, check out this article with links to donation pages: http://remezcla.com/lists/culture/peru-floods-rain-how-you-can-help/.