Answering cries for help

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Communities devastated by floods in Peru look to rebuild

|| By Robert Monterrey Melgarejo

For almost three months earlier this year, torrential rains and floods affected more than 1 million people in Peru. Houses were destroyed, crops obliterated, livestock and farm animals exterminated, waterways collapsed and, worst of all, more than 110 people died due to this natural disaster.

The uncharacteristically heavy rains, caused by El Niño weather patterns, displaced more than 180,000 Peruvians, especially in the country’s northern states.

The Diocese of Lurín, south of Lima, where Maryknoll Father Kyungsu Son ministers, was also hit by huaicos (avalanches of mud and rocks) and river floods. These natural disasters have left a trail of destruction and tears, especially in the adjacent districts of Lurín and Pachacamac, and places like Pampa Pacta, where more than 300 families lost everything.

“These families, these households, are suffering and they need our support to rebuild their lives, their homes,” says Lurín’s Bishop Carlos Garcia Camader. “We have brought tents.

We are trying to bring them food and trying to see how we can give them back their houses, their land, after the Lurín River flooded them.”
“Many campesinos have ended up in the streets,” he adds, “without land, without a house, and without crops, which were their livelihoods.”

Yet amid disaster, there are people who have demonstrated the love and mercy of God.

Ricardo Zevallos is one of them. In the rural area of Picapiedra, Pachacamac, where the Lurín River flooded very poor houses, Zevallos saved 60 children and adults who were trapped in an Evangelical community. He rescued and carried them using a neighbor’s front loader.

“I asked the Virgin Mary and God for help to rescue those people,” Zevallos says. “The front loader was able to resist until the last trip (to carry the people stranded by the flood), even though the water current was about to knock it over with me inside of it.”

In San Bartolo, which is part of the Lurín diocese, Evangelina Chamorro was dragged for more than two miles by a huaico. “Thank God, after a long battle against the mud that was pulling and asphyxiating her, she was able to survive and then see her loved ones and recover from her wounds,” says Bishop Garcia. Chamorro’s struggle to claw herself from the mud to safety

was recorded by bystanders and widely shared online, touching the hearts of people worldwide.

“Now that we are in a rebuilding stage, there is not that much publicity for donation campaigns,” says Carlos Apcho, a Maryknoll affiliate in St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Lima. After receiving donations from the Maryknoll Affiliates in the United States and Guatemala, the Peruvian affiliates took non-perishable food to more than 80 families in the province of Chimbote, in the state of Ancash, north of Lima.

“In several remote places, people who live off the land (and were affected by the floods) are still living in tents; they still need food,” he says. “It is not only the mudslide that affects them, but its aftermath.”

The experiences of Evangelina Chamorro and Ricardo Zevallos put human faces on the people’s resilience and solidarity, and their examples inspire us to help all of the victims in Peru. With our support, these suffering families will have the strength to start over and be able to rebuild their lives.

Featured Image: Police rescue people from the floodwaters of the Rimac and Huaycoloro rivers in Lima. (CNS photo, Ernesto Arias, EPA/Peru)


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About the author

Robert Monterrey Melgarejo

Monterrey Melgarejo is a lawyer who is blind and offers legal counsel at Casa Bartimeo, a program for the blind directed by Father Son in Lima, Peru.