Impact of the Weather Phenomenon Known as the “Niño Costero” and Delivery of Assistance to San Pedro

by Yolanda Olivares (daughter of Manuel Olivares, D. Ruzo’s guide)

The rains in San Pedro typically start in January, they become harder and more frequent in February which the inhabitants (comuneros) often call “crazy February”. This year (2017) the extremely intense rains caused multiple landslides which eventually made the road to the village and several bridges impassable and left it isolated.

The comuneros are used to repairing the damages that normally take place during the rainy season, but in this case the situation became much more serious and they were in danger of being completely isolated, with no communication, electricity, water, firewood or food. Even worse, enormous cracks appeared on the ground giving rise to fears that the village would slide off the mountain where it is perched.

On the morning of March 20th (while I was in Lima) I received a cell phone call from three comuneras in the village asking for help and informing me of the situation. I contacted Dr Luis Ruzo in the USA and requested his assistance. The government could not address our plight because the entire northern region of Peru was considered a disaster zone and more important roads were prioritized.

The villagers gave me a list of the most urgent items needed which we purchased in Lima with the funds provided by the Ruzo Foundation (ECYART). We were able to convince the Police Air Force to provide a helicopter for transport, but this approach had to be abandoned since the helicopter could not land in San Pedro due to the dense fog and rain prevailing. After several attempts we decided to attempt transport over land using the central highway via Casapalca. Normally the village can be reached from Lima in 3-4 hours, but it took us 24 hours under extremely dangerous conditions.

We delivered three tons of food to the villagers, each received sufficient food and fuel for one week. The amounts distributed and the identity of the recipients were recorded by the mayor’s office. The next day I climbed to the Marcahuasi plateau to assess damages that may have been caused by the weather. While the access trails were in very poor condition, the actual structures appeared not to have suffered from the intense rain and wind.