Tue | Mar 28, 2023

Mudslides smash villages in Peru; at least 12 confirmed dead

Published:Tuesday | February 7, 2023 | 6:44 PM
Residents walk on a street covered with debris caused by a landslide, in Camana, Peru, Tuesday, February 7, 2023. Authorities in Peru say landslides triggered by steady rains swept mud, water and rocks into several villages in the country's southern region. (AP Photo/Jose Sotomayor)

SECOCHA, Peru (AP) — Residents of five small gold-mining villages in southern Peru's Arequipa region struggled Tuesday to salvage belongings after landslides caused by strong rains killed at least 12 people and dragged mud, water and rocks that turned precarious homes and other buildings into rubble.

In the Mariano Nicolás Valcárcel municipality, on the edges of a depleted mining extraction area in Camaná province, people desperately searched for anything they could salvage amid the mud.

One of them was Mauro Noa, a community leader in the Posco Miski village who has been trying to reach local leaders to obtain first aid and food to help more than 1,000 of his neighbours who have been stuck on the side of a mountain since Sunday and are unable to leave due to the accumulation of mud and rocks.

“They're hungry and thirsty,” Noa said. “Nobody thinks about them.”

Noa said this is the first time in 18 years he has seen a landslide of this magnitude and neighbours have compiled a list of 14 Posco Miski residents whose whereabouts are unknown. “The neighbours who couldn't leave their houses were taken by the wave of mud,” Noa said. “Children have been left traumatised by the rain and the landslide.”

Law enforcement has sent 15 rescue workers to the area.

A local Civil Defense official said Monday that at least 36 people had died in the landslides, but on Tuesday a prosecutor told The Associated Press they had confirmed only 12 deaths and three people were listed as missing.

The landslides destroyed key access roads into the remote villages, making it difficult to confirm the death toll. Peru's government had yet to release any official numbers, although the president travelled to the affected area Tuesday.

The slides that began Sunday and continued Monday from the highest mountains in the area destroyed everything in their path.

Heavy rains are frequent in Peru in February and they sometimes help spark landslides.

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