Houses on the Rimac could be washed away at any moment

March 19th, 2009

Since mass migration from rural Peru expanded the city of Lima to its current size, people have been building on land they really shouldn’t have been. People built their new homes on land that wasn’t theirs but were eventually issued titles too when they became entrenched and established. A process that in Peru is called “invading”, this is how most of the poorer districts of Lima got started – districts that now have sewage and water systems, streets, hospitals restaurants. Sometimes, the homes of the newly arrived where built not only on land that wasn’t theirs, but on land where it isn’t safe to do so. You see this all the time with shacks clinging onto steep sandy cliffs.

Just north of the colonial centre of Lima, a few blocks walk from Av. Argentina and Las Malvinas, are several disorganised blocks of houses on part of the flood plain of the river Rimac.

Head of the National Civil Defense Institute of the Central Coast (INDECI) James Atkins gave his yearly warning that always comes to nothing… the rains in the Andes at this time of year may cause a high river that could wash homes along Avenida Moreles Duárez away.

Danger area along the river Rimac

Danger area along the river Rimac

The part of the flood plain that the houses are on is slightly raised from the river itself, which has formed a small mud cliff. However, when the river is stronger the water flows along the side of this mud bank slowly washing it away.

The risk is permanent, but increases ten fold at this time of year.

The shape of the flood plain is obvious

The shape of the flood plain is obvious

“This is an old problem, one which we have talked about with the authorities and the public. Each year we do this monitoring of the river and see that these families are living in a permanent state of high vulnerability”, the agency told Andina.

INDECI recommends that the local governments of Cercado de Lima, Rimac and San Martin de Porres to relocate about 42 blocks of buildings. Unfortunately, the residents themselves refuse to leave.

Last year one person was killed when a home slid into the river. The victim’s brother was able to survive by clinging on to one of the remaining walls.

“We shouldn’t wait for another house to fall”, stressed the regional director of INDECI.

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