Huaicos, floods, destroyed homes, families living on the streets, missing persons and deaths. This and more has generated the passage of Cyclone Yaku in Peru. There are more than 12,800 victims throughout the national territory, at least 50 people who have lost their lives and hundreds injured. In addition, thousands of businesses have been affected, generating irreparable economic losses, especially in the north of the country.

For Jorge Capuñaya specialist in natural disasters from the César Vallejo University (UCV), the negative consequences that Yaku has left in Peruvian territory are due to the lack of research on these phenomena and, therefore, to the lack of preparation of the population to prevent its impacts.

“The lack of studies, research and identification of this phenomenon with due anticipation is what we are seeing now. The cyclone was only identified in February. In the country we have deficiencies in the meteorological investigationsthere is no exchange of information at the international level and this means that these phenomena are not well studied,” he explained to this medium.

“Before we have not foreseen a similar phenomenon. This causes the evaluation and reaction to it to become more complex. It is a topic that we have not mapped; however, we must do a research paper called Risk assessment. We have to reconsider many things, evaluate the ravines, active and inactive. But if we don’t have the enough studiesHow can we prepare ourselves?” he reported.

Verónica Ramírez and her mother with the belongings they managed to rescue during the overflow of the Chillon River.  (Infobae/Paula Elizalde)
Verónica Ramírez and her mother with the belongings they managed to rescue during the overflow of the Chillon River. (Infobae/Paula Elizalde)

Capuñay also spoke about the levels of prevention in Peruvian society and specified that this is almost nil among citizens. As he indicated, in 1972 a geohazard assessment and specified which areas were in disaster risk. However, despite this information, the authorities have allowed the use of these spaces.

“I am from Chimbote and I know that there are lands that should not be built on due to the risk they suffer. Now there are areas that are flooded, because they are not fit to build houses. In addition to soils, there are diseases, mosquitoes. Children are harmed by this. There is also no good sanitary climatebut there are people who live there,” he explained.

According to the specialist, it is necessary for the authorities to take into account the consequences generated by previous natural disasters in order to identify the risks their population is at. “It seems that we have forgotten the last huaicos that the country experienced. We do not have a culture of prevention. It also seems that we have put aside how Pisco was left after the earthquake, how Ica was, ”he emphasized.

“This Yaku phenomenon has been little studied, it is true. It is part of climate change that we are living in and affects tropical oceans with higher temperatures, and this is closely related to the issue of natural disasters. So, we can base ourselves on this to know what will be more recurring. For example, initially we have the El Niño phenomenon, the La Niña, and now we have the huge Yaku. We can have a preventative plan for these situations,” he added.

Capuñay also explained that although actions can be initiated after these events, it is necessary for the authorities and the population to take long-term preventive measures and not just in a short period.

For the expert, one of the main reasons why there is no prepared prevention plan is due to mismanagement in municipalities and other authorities. For the specialist in natural disasters, many times the list of professionals is not correct, nor are officials chosen with sufficient experience to deal with social problems.

Minors from the children's village affected by mudslides.
Minors from the children’s village affected by mudslides.

“Sometimes, the previous management has bad practices and leaves you with zero progress. Given this, the new person who enters has to learn and elaborate a certain situation from scratch. On the subject of risk management, there is not always specialized personnel. And what happens when a management ends? All the staff leave again and others enter who must learn again, ”she said.

He also explained that the authorities do not always offer training on preventive topicstherefore, there is no sufficiently trained staff. Capuñay said that the constant change of administrative personnel can have a negative impact because it can remove professionals who do have the right profile to contribute to these issues.

“There are cases in which officials do not care if they withdraw specialized personnel, if they are truly trained or prepared. Sometimes they take out an entire area for their people to enter and are unaware of the importance of perseverance in projects. So, the change has to be from the political side as well, ”she stressed.

Finally, Jorge Capuñay stated that the realization of plays is one of the important factors for the culture of prevention, since this must be guided by professionals such as engineers, geologists, architects and others to guarantee the safety of the constructions. However, many of these do not always have experts on the subject and are not even finished.

“We have to work with training programs because, otherwise, we carry out works that are not consistent with the reality of these locations. What the authorities or political figures should do is make sure that these works will be properly built and finished. Each municipality, however small it may be, must have a professional in charge of this planning and evaluation of these sites”, he indicated.

For this, he argued that it is necessary for citizens to closely follow the processes that each authority carries out for the improvement of the districts, since he considers that a correct surveillance it will make officials offer better projects and works in favor of the population.

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