Columban response to 'Devastating' Floods in Peru

23rd March 2017 - by Ellen Teague

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In the wake of unprecedented flooding in Peru, caused by exceptionally warm water in the Pacific Ocean fueling torrential rain along South America’s west coast, Columban missionaries working in the country report on their devastating impact.

The floods in Peru are flash floods. With the lashing downpours seen in recent weeks, dry river beds have become torrential rivers of water mixed with soil and rocks and whatever else they bring with it.

Three of the Dioceses in which Columbans work have been affected: Carabayllo, Chosica and Chimbote. Fr Kevin McDonagh in Samanco, Chimbote, is cut off from the outside world and the population is without clean water. The situation is getting precarious for the people in and around the fishing and agricultural town, and indeed the whole Chimbote area in the north of the country.

Everywhere the flooding with muddy water has caused havoc, with 205,000 houses destroyed or unusable, more than 100 people are dead so far, and 150,000 injured in accidents related to the disaster. Many of the communities where our local Peruvian lay missionaries have ministered and accompanied people over the past 15 years are badly hit. Jimbe and the higher districts leading to the Andes, where an international group, including two Fijians, has been working, are still cut-off due to landslides. More than one million people are affected across the country.

English Columban Fr Ed O’Connell reports that on Sunday his parish in Lima took up collections, ‘taking in three times the usual offering, and clothes, clean water and food stocks to be taken later in the week to affected areas’. He added that teams of youth from the 12 communities in the parish are preparing to visit disrupted communities, coordinating with the parishes there, to help clean up or do preventative work in building up dams, as the emergency is not over yet.

Australian Columban Bernard Lane reports that schools, universities, and other institutes have been closed for the time being. He reflects: ‘The social-political-economic cost will be high, plus there is the whole question of climate-change which is ignored by so many still; plus the irresponsibility of so many authorities in terms of prevention and preparation for such natural disasters. Flooding and landslides occur most years BUT the extent of this current natural phenomena is hard to believe … In all my 32 years in Peru, this is the most devastating disaster we have seen.’

It is still raining in the mountains and further flooding is expected well in to April. The challenges ahead are enormous in terms of getting through the disaster and reconstruction. There is little bottled water available, but fortunately there is water flowing again in Lima though with low pressure.   

Bernard Lane reflects: ‘It is worrying to think of so many people without clean water especially in the provincial areas. The question is how much more can the people take. Their response and solidarity so far has been nothing short of heroic.

Even in the midst of all the suffering, we are seeing Peru and Peruvians at their very best. It is inspiring and heartbreaking all at once. 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 Columban General Concil has given a donation of US$10,000 to each of the three dioceses affected, and in which Columbans have worked – Chimbote, Chosica and Carabayllo – and an additional $10,000 to the Conference of Major Religious Superiors for emergency work in other parts of the country.

The Columban Missionaries in Peru wish to provide on-going financial support to the Church in the affected areas and are appealing for further donations to support the long-term reconstruction and rehabilitation of communities that will be required. 

Donate online via Charity  Choice, by telephone to 01564 772 096 (Mon-Fri 09.00-4.00pm) or by cheque sent to:

Columban Missionaries
St. Columban’s
Widney Manor Road
B93 9AB

Please put ‘Peru Floods Appeal’ in the message box or correspondence (for online and post donations).