As you may have noticed in the news, torrential rains as part of the El Niño phenomenon have been falling in the Peruvian Andes. Rain on the eastern flank of the mountains is nothing new, however, these rains are on the dry, western face of the Andes, in areas unaccustomed to receiving more than an occasional foggy mist.
The topography of the Andes, which funnels giant catchments down to small valleys as the slopes approach sea level, coupled with the heavy rains, has caused what is known in the local language as “haicos” or mud flows.
Mud flows from the Andes have made it to the Pacific, flowing through Lima and other coastal towns along the entire length of the country. In Lima, stream banks have overflowed, causing severe damage to property and overwhelming public water supply facilities. As such, most of Lima is without water, schools have been closed, and travel outside of Lima is considered dangerous for the time being.
Our Lima office is still open. The mine sites where we work, and have designed dams and other structures, are unharmed and there are no cases of imminent failure. However, the roads to those mines have been washed out or flooded. The water has mostly subsided.
Although the Lima office is open, many of our staff have been dealing with their damaged homes and communities, or volunteering to help with the aftermath.