Abnormal El Nino in Peru unleashes deadly downpours
LIMA: A sudden and abnormal warming of Pacific waters off Peru has unleashed the deadliest downpours in decades, with landslides and raging rivers sweeping away people, clogging highways and destroying crops in a potential sign of a global El Nino pattern this year.
At least 62 people have died and more than 70,000 have become homeless as Peru’s rainy season has delivered 10 times as much rainfall than usual, authorities said on Friday.
About half of Peru has been declared in emergency to expedite resources to the hardest hit areas, mostly in the north where rainfall has broken records in several districts, said Prime Minister Fernando Zavala.
Peru is bracing itself for another month of flooding.
A local El Nino phenomenon, the warming of surface sea temperatures in the Pacific, will likely continue along Peru’s northern coast at least through April, said Dimitri Gutierrez, a scientist with Peru’s El Nino committee.
Local El Ninos in Peru tend to be followed by the global El Nino phenomenon, which can trigger flooding and droughts in different countries, said Gutierrez.
The US weather agency has put the chances of an El Nino developing in the second half of 2017 at 50-55 per cent.
While precipitation in Peru has not exceeded the powerful El Nino of 1998, more rain is falling in shorter periods of time — rapidly filling streets and rivers, said Jorge Chavez, a general tasked with coordinating the government’s response.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Chavez. “From one moment to the next, sea temperatures rose and winds that keep precipitation from reaching land subsided.”
Some scientists have said climate change will make El Ninos more frequent and intense.
In Peru, apocalyptic scenes recorded on cellphones and shared on social media have broadened the sense of chaos.
A woman caked in mud pulled herself from under a debris-filled river earlier this week after a mudslide rushed through a valley where she was tending to crops. — Reuters