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The Island Of Old Town
Local el Niño's heavy rains smash the place where a mine was almost to drill.

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By Liliana Alzamora and Nelson Peñaherrera

On March 3rd, 2017, Tambogrande, Peru, had its heaviest rain of 2017. All the western sector of the town got under a water layer.
Photo by Aldo Palacios, distributed by FACTORTIERRA.NET

TAMBOGRANDE, Peru - Santa Cruz hill, now in the middle of the town, was in prehistoricc times a dome volcano. Its red soil, rich of coopper, is the evidence of a hot past.

Nowadays, any volcanic activity happens in or around but the people. Only a decade and a half ago, many opposed to a proposed open-pit mine that implied to remove the so-called Old Town, Tambogrande downtown actually.

Seen from the top of Santa Cruz Hill in a usual summer, Tambogrande looks like invaded by a green tide by the east, the North and the West - San Lorenzo Valley Colonization, the main mango and lime producting area in Piura region, at Peruvian Northwestern. The Old City remains there after the population defeated the formerly called Manhattan Minerals Corp., today renamed as Mediterranean Rresources.

However the green tide is not completely green today. There are many spaces full of water, not only where the valley extends but in front of the town, where Piura River, The region's second most important, flows from the southeast to southwest. This curve could be caused by the prehistoric eruption of Santa Cruz Hill, according to a thesis written and substantiated in National University of Trujillo, Peru, in 1960s, and filed in Tambogrande Public Library.

The fact is the town seems an island now.

Last March 3rd, an 8-hour heavy rain and an intense electric storm, left 18 cm of water, according to Piura City-based Regional Operatin Center of emergencies (COER as in Spanish), one of the strongest, only similar to the one fall in Chulucanas City, about 40 km to the southeast, ending last January. In Tambogrande, that rain caused floods in town's western side, affecting  5000 people, collapsing 90 homes, including some built as a sample by Manhattan Minerals to convince the people for moving to drill the mine.

Tambogrande and Chulucanas can not be considered as the season record-breakers in Piura, at least until now. According to Lima-based National Operating Center of emergencies (COEN as in Spanish), a village called Partidor, about 20 km at the north of Tambogrande, not only broke the 2017's record, but a 1999's record - 26 cm of rain on the same March 3th. Another cities around, as Sullana (40 km to the west of Tambogrande), Piura (40 km to the southwest of Tambogrande) as well claim to have serious troubles caused by rains, especially the second one, but their reports don't superate 8 cm of rain.

Rains over Tambogrande were falling since second quarter of January 2017. Summers in Peruvian Northern use to be warmer and rainer than any other time of the year.
Photo by Aldo Palacios, distributed by FACTORTIERRA.NET

DOWNLOAD: This impressive windy & rainy storm in Tambogrande, February 16th,2017. (Video distributed by Radio Cutivalú)

Romantic landmarks nothing romantic
The difference of impacts is explained by a permanent low-presure system going from Las Lomas town in the north to Chulucanas in the south, Tambogrande in the middle, where the most extreme weather in Piura lowlands happens. It was discovered in 1997 while a wind direction survey was made.

In Piura City the authorities are expectant about what happens in Tambogrande. Piura River divides its large metro area where 0,6 million people live. Four bridges hold the connectivity among.

Since rains started in January, authorities go to Sánchez Cerro bridge, the second going from the north to the south, to survey the flow speed. While in Tambogrande, the readings only reached 1200 cubic meters per second (m3/s), in Piura City got between 1900 to 2000 m3/s. In 1998 el Niño event, parts were flooded and Bolognesi Bridge, the city's fourth one, was destroyed killing around 60 people. That time, the flow rised to  4000 m3/s edge.

DOWNLOAD: National Weather Service's meteorologist Héctor Yauri made this surveillance video of a storm approaching Piura City, Peru.

when survey reaches 1700 m3/s, generally, authorities close the four bridges, isolating the two halves of the metro area. Such decision can get the people angry but it saves their lives, indeed.

On March 8th, a heavy rains and a very intense electric storm slammed Sullana City Area, making to increase Canal Vía, the former Cieneguillo Creek that divides the urban area in two parts.
Photo by María Luisa Chero, distributed by FACTORTIERRA.NET

The authorities don't want to repeat the crisis of 1998, 1983 neither. Both years where marked by extraordinary el Niño events, caused when Humboldt Current (cold water) doesn't allow to keep el Niño Current (warm water) beyond Peru-ecuador international limit in the sea.

As FACTORTIERRA.NET reported last February 10th, the ocean aside Piura Region is about 10 Celsius degrees over the usual, reaching 29 Celsius in March's first week. National survey of el Niño Phenomenom (ENFEN as in Spanish), that suggested an el Niño event that time, now names it without regrets. But it's not an el Niño massive event, but a local one called Coastal El Niño, that only affects North Peruvian shores and impacts Central Andean Range increasing flows as Rímac River, that divides Lima Metro Area, Peru's capital city.

DOWNLOAD: Another impressive storm falling over Malingas village, nearby Tambogrande, on March 3rd. (Video by Jimmy Farfán, distributed by El Regional de Piura)

Meanwhile, across Piura region rains are leaving water everywhere, from the little ponds filling the lowest or the most damaged streets and avenues in all the towns until a 100-km lake ocupping Sechura Desert, where Piura River actually ends. That lake was named La Niña in 1998 by former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, now jailed by corruption, human rights violations charges.

La Niña is threatening again Pan-American Highway in the segment connecting Piura and Chiclayo cities, about 200 km distance, but ponds at the neighborhoods threaten the people even when authorities have not made an official statement yet. However, dengue, a disease caused by the Aedes aeghypti mosquito's puncture, is reaching 200 confirmed cases. The insect is also the vector of chikungunya (5 confirmed cases in 2017) and zika diseases.

A rain falls on March 4th, in Sullana downtown's afternoon, where 2 people died from dengue.
Photo by Francesco Navarrete, distributed by FACTORTIERRA.NET

To get the whole picture, approximately 1,85 million people live in Piura region, 80% in lowlands, were rains are smashing much. The most live in urban areas. Of that amount, around 120000 live in Tambogrande District, compounded by the town and 200 rural villages - 80 of them are isolated now because of rivers and creeks overflooded.

Tambogrande authorities have not drawed what health & sanity crisis are coming on, but the trash gathering service was not working well and the main avenue is under maintenance. Local Health Center confirmed 30 dengue cases this week.

Locals feel their town, and especially The Old Town, is not ready for another heavy rain, but they come every afternoon and night for sure.

FACEBOOK: See and comment about the rainy season in tambogrande.

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