Andes region suffers severe floods
Heavy rains have left small communities in Peru and Bolivia devastated, as rivers surge through mountain valleys.
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2011 14:53 GMT
The picturesque Andes are the main water source for the city of Ica and its surrounding area [GALLO/GETTY]

There seems to have been no end of floods this year. Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa have already been hit - and now it is South America's turn.

Peru and Bolivia have both been swamped by rain. In Peru, it's the west coast which has seen the worst of the rains - and this is a region which is usually very, very dry.

Despite the fact it is so close to the sea, it rarely rains here - because the prevailing current is very cold.

The city of Ica, about 250km south of Lima, the Peruvian capital, is little green haven in this desert.

It is situated just to the west of the Andes in a fertile river valley - and is famous for agriculture and for being home to the oldest vineyards in South America.

Even here, rain is rare; the river flowing down from the Andes is the main source of water.

But this is an exceptional year. This year it has rained incessantly - not only in Ica and the surrounding area, but also in the mountains.

This rain has surged along the rivers, causing them to overflow.

Ica alone has seen 150 homes inundated with muddy flood water - and fields of lime, cotton and peanuts have been washed away. Even some of the famous vineyards have been destroyed.

Staggering volume

In neighbouring Bolivia, the torrential rains have been more widespread - also triggering devastating mudslides affecting the majority of the country.

One of the worst hit areas has been the central El Chapare province, where the River Chapare overflowed and, in places, flood waters reached two metres. 

The fast-moving waters carried away cars and swallowed houses whole.

The sheer volume of rain seen in Bolivia has been staggering. In San Jose, 115mm of rain fell in just 24 hours.

With so much standing water, there is the risk of mosquito-born illnesses, such as dengue fever.

The concern for both these regions is that more rain will fall - and this is a real worry because Bolivia's rainy season continues until the middle of March.

Al Jazeera
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