Heavy March Rains Damage Peruvian Infrastructure

Peru is recovering from damaging and deadly rains that plagued the Andean nation throughout March.

El Niño-like weather conditions off the coast of Peru raised water temperatures far above normal levels and caused severe rain storms in the Andean regions.

The death toll from flooding surpassed 80 people in March. During that month, many regions were inundated with as much rainfall as they normally receive in an entire year.

In an interview with Reuters, Peru’s Transportation Minister Martin Vizcarra said that more than 200 bridges and 2,000 kilometers of highway had been destroyed.

In the short term, Peru needs many thousands of tons more emergency supplies to deal with the ongoing crisis. The United States recently pledged US$775,000 in aid, while China pledged US$1.5 million.

In the long term, Peru will face difficulties rebuilding its damaged infrastructure as a result of the ongoing corruption scandal surrounding the Brazilian construction conglomerate, Odebrecht. Minister Vizcarra indicated that reconstruction contracts would most likely be awarded in August or September after the rainy season is over.

So far the rain and floods have caused more than US$6 billion in damage or about 3 percent of Peru’s GDP.

The destruction is proving a challenge for President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, whose approval ratings had slipped to 32 percent in mid-March. Elected on a pro-growth platform based on infrastructure spending, President Kuczynski’s plans ran aground after the Odebrecht revelations put infrastructure projects worth billions of US dollars on hold.

Heavy rains have also hit other South American countries. In Columbia, mudslides have killed more than 250 people.

In the recent past, heavy rains combined with the effects of deforestation led to a “tsunami” on the Amazon River, which killed 60 people and displaced 68,000.

Natural disasters like the deluge in the Andes show the need for Latin American nations to prepare for events caused by climate change proactively. Peru’s Minister of Transportation would be wise to take this into account during the upcoming reconstruction period.

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