Rescue workers in Peru have recovered the bodies of at least two people, including a one-month-old infant, as they continue to search for missing residents after a major landslide struck a community in the country’s north.
The landslide occurred on Tuesday in the town of Retamas, in Peru’s La Libertad region, destroying several homes and other structures.
“We managed to recover the body of one adult, a man, and a one-month-old girl,” Jose Rivas, the spokesman for the police rescue team, said on Wednesday.
“Most probably he was trying to protect the girl and the landslide buried both of them,” said Rivas, adding that the bodies were found in the rubble of a market.
Peruvian Defence Minister Jose Luis Gavidia had said earlier that eight people were rescued unharmed from the rubble, while eight others – including three children – remained missing.
“I managed to get out in time (but) my house was buried. The landslide has left us with nothing,” said Ledy Leiva, who escaped with five family members.
The development comes amid intense political and environmental challenges in the Andean nation.
On Monday, Peru’s Congress voted in favour of initiating impeachment proceedings against President Pedro Castillo over allegations of corruption. And in January, a major oil spill on the nation’s Pacific coast wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of thousands of small-scale fishermen.
Peru’s President Pedro Castillo arrived in Retamas on Wednesday to inspect the damage.
“In Peru we lack a risk map, there are people who dare to put a roof over a river or drill a hole in a hill to make homes,” said Castillo, referring to poor people with no other option than to build makeshift homes in precarious places.
The National Institute of Civil Defense said the landslide was the result of heavy rains.
According to local authorities in the area – where mineworkers generally live – the vegetation-covered mountain is not suitable for building homes.
Earlier on Wednesday Castillo tweeted that his government will help affected families.
“We will support the affected families and coordinate various actions with the local authorities,” he said.
Images circulating on social media on Tuesday showed homes being covered by mud and rocks as neighbours watched in horror.