Heavy rains in Peru have caused intense flooding throughout the country on March 17, causing Peruvian President Pablo Kuczynski to declare a state of emergency in the affected areas, according to the Guardian. The massive storm was responsible for taking the lives of 67 people, along with damage to “115,000 homes, collapsed 117 bridges, and paralyzed countless roadways” from the overflowing river systems.
According to the Guardian’s report, the storms and floods have been occurring due to the arrival of the El Niño rains, and President Kuczynski’s emergency declaration covers over 800 cities in 176 districts across 12 regions. The regions are considered to be in imminent danger from mudslides; seven of the regions under are sanitary emergencies due to stagnating water.
President Kuczynski said the storm was of massive proportions. “There hasn’t been an incident of this strength along the coast of Peru since 1998,” he said, as reported by Safe Travels Magazine.
Arilla Utley, a freshman from Oregon studying psychology, served as a missionary in the Peru Trujillo North Mission. Throughout the course of the storm, Utley said she has connected with former investigators, members, and companions from her mission who have been affected by the storms.
Utley said in Trujillo there are ravines within the mountains that have overflowed and led to flooding in the city. “The cycle of the flooding starts with the heavy rains, leading to an overflowed ravine, then to an overflowing river, and ending with flooded streets, homes, and cities.”
Peru’s National Institute of Civil Defense reported the number of people made homeless from the massive storms is over 72,000, and the number keeps climbing.
Utley said although many Peruvians have had their homes and belongings taken from them, they have remained positive. “Most Peruvians I connected with on my mission actively use Facebook and other social media sites to update friends and family. “This has been a great way for me to stay informed and connected with those who have been affected by the storm. Most of them have positive outlooks despite their situation.”
Utley attributed the positivity of the members to the dedication of the Trujillo Peru Temple. Her mission president always emphasized a special blessing on the temple given during the dedicatory prayer by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in 2015. Uchtdorf said in the prayer, “We dedicate the temple from the footings to the top of the steeple with its crowning figure of Moroni; the walls and windows that they may stand against the storms of nature…”
Utley said although the storm has been destructive in many areas, the temple has stood strong and resilient through it all. She said the members of the Church in Peru also exhibit that same strength. Returned missionaries from Utley’s mission all joined together to fast on March 25 for those enduring the storms and flooding.
According to Safe Travels Magazine, Peruvian meteorologists are predicting the heavy rains will continue into April.