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
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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