Humanitarian disaster in Cusco, abandoned communities help themselves

January 29th, 2010

Andy Dare in Cusco borrows a pickup, and with some friends goes to do what no government or aid agency has done – provide aid to the real victims of the worst natural disaster to hit the region in decades.Get the latest news on the disaster here

Village of Lucre

Village of Lucre, Family salvaging possessions

“In these tough times the Peruvian people have shown how amazing their community spirit really is, as all over Cusco there are collecting stations, where people have been donating clothes, food & water. Companies, groups & individuals have been gathering together & doing something about this disaster for themselves, & they are pretty good at it too!

We joined in too & my Peruvian friends, Karla, Chino, David, together with Ali & Laurie who had just returned after being turned back halfway along the Inca trail.

We borrowed a pickup, chipped- in & bought several hundred litres of drinks, biscuits, tins of food, fruit & candles & matches & set off to the worse affected areas to help out as best we could on our own mission.

First we drove down to Lucre, the popular little village where Cusqueños head off at the weekend to sample their famous duck.

The little stream through the village had leapt over the walls becoming a raging torrent in the main street resulting in half the village being simply flattened & even now the people were in a stunned daze still. Here was just the saddest scene ever, with a family sifting through the mud with their bare hands trying to salvage anything, only managing to recover just a few plates & cups. Their son was clutching onto a single muddy toy, all he had managed to get out his room before it collapsed. The mother had in her hand a cherished mud covered photo, but there honestly looked like there was nothing else to be found.

I wondered where were they going to sleep that night…. & the next?

Next we drove down the valley following the trail of water damage to Pinipampa.

We were just not able to visit it, as it was still under 2m of water, with only a few roofs showing above the newly formed lake. a whole village was gone – simple not there any more!

We drove to the single house on the edge of the lake & started donating supplies, & pretty soon people appeared desperately running to us to get anything they could. The faces told us all, long drawn & sad. There was little squabbling & people pointed to their neighbours who had lost their whole homes to make sure they got plenty.

Sad, numbing & unbelievable – one group of three turned up on three car inner tubes from the middle of the lake where their roof was just poking above the water. There were other family members sitting on the roof, waiting for the water to subside, but being built of Adobe, I would not have thought that it would have stood much longer, as we had seen the results of water & mud at Lucre.

Finally we returned to Huacarpay, where the whole village except the school was underwater, & most of the houses collapsed or were still collapsing. People were setting up tents & shelters on the side of the hill above the water, with the few processions they had managed to salvage.

While we were there about 5-6 cars & trucks appeared to give out aid, & it was incredibly emotional to see them so obviously desperate for anything, that there was almost fighting breaking out for the small bags of pasta being dished out. The village elders were trying to keep things organised, as were a hand full of police, but it was a hard task driven by the desperation of the people here.

On returning to Central Cusco we visited churches & plazas & everywhere people were bringing, food water & clothes.

I find the community spirit this place has to be just amazing, as the people doing the giving don’t really have much themselves even.

The latest government figures from the Cusco region alone are shocking:
25,000 homes completely destroyed & that was according to the government figures from yesterday (27th), so I wonder how many more now?

Today (28th) the government estimate is 80,000 people are affected, but even today, there has just been a huge landslide west of Cusco destroying a whole village.Andy Dare

– Andy Dare

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