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Intense rain in Peru raises death toll to 75, leaves thousands including a Catholic priest stranded

Peru disaster

Danger zone: Agents of the Peruvian National Police rescue people from floodwaters March 17 near the Rimac and Huaycoloro rivers in Lima. Photo :CNS

A COLUMBAN priest is amongst the thousands of people cut off from the outside world as heavy rains and flooding continue to wreak havoc in Peru.

Intense rains, overflowing rivers, mudslides and flooding being experienced in the country are the worst seen in two decades.

Irishman Fr Kevin McDonagh is serving in a remote parish in Samanco near Chimbote.

He arrived in the predominantly fishing and farming parish in 2014.

“He is managing okay, but the situation is getting precarious for the people,” St Columbans Mission Society superior general Fr Kevin O’Neill said.

“The worst is not quite yet over as rain is still expected over the next few weeks, with some of it moving south.

“The challenges ahead are enormous in terms of reconstruction.”

The death toll stands at 75.

Half the nation is affected while more than 100,000 people are homeless.

The full size of the humanitarian disaster will not be known until emergency workers reach the areas that have been cut off since the flooding began.

“It is mind boggling. We had bad flooding in 1982, and we all thought it was terrible. But that was child’s play in comparison to now,” Fr O’Neill said.

“The question is how much more can the people take.”

“Their response and solidarity so far has been nothing short of heroic.

“Please, we are asking for prayers and positive thoughts in solidarity with the people of Peru in these times of suffering, especially those most directly affected.”

The Peruvian government said 374 people were killed in 1998 during a similar period of massive rains and flooding caused by rains blamed on the El Nino climate pattern.

The rains have overwhelmed the drainage system in the cities along Peru’s Pacific coast and the health ministry has started fumigating around the pools of water that have formed in the streets to kill mosquitoes that carry diseases like dengue.

Fr O’Neill said little bottled water was available but fortunately there is water flowing again in the capita Lima, though with low pressure.

“It is worrying to think of so many people without clean water especially in the provincial areas,” he said.

Peruvian soldiers have been deployed to help police control public order in the 811 cities that have declared an emergency.

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