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Mudslides destroy villages in Peru; at least 12 confirmed dead


SECOCHA, Peru — Residents of five small gold mining towns in the Arequipa region of southern Peru struggled Tuesday to save their belongings after landslides caused by heavy rains killed at least 12 people and dragged mud, water and rocks with them. precarious homes and other buildings have turned into rubble.

In the municipality of Mariano Nicolás Valcárcel, on the edge of a depleted mining area in Camaná province, people desperately searched for anything they could salvage in the mud.

One of them was Mauro Noa, a community leader in the village of Posco Miski, who is trying to reach local leaders to get first aid and food to help more than 1,000 of his neighbors trapped on the side of a mountain since Sunday. cannot leave due to the accumulation of mud and stones.

“They’re hungry and thirsty,” Noa said. “Nobody thinks about them.”

Noa said this is the first time in 18 years he has seen a landslide of this magnitude and neighbors have compiled a list of 14 Posco Miski residents whose whereabouts are unknown. “The neighbors who couldn’t get out of their houses got carried away by the mudslide,” Noa said. “Children are traumatized by the rain and the landslide.”

Law enforcement has sent 15 rescuers to the area and they are expected to arrive in Secocha late in the afternoon because the road is blocked by mud, police officer Giancarlo Vizcarra said.

Vizcarra said that after they arrive in Secocha, rescuers will try to go to the most remote villages to search for bodies that may have been buried under mud using two dogs trained to search for people after earthquakes.

A local civil defense official said on Monday that at least 36 people had been killed in the landslides, but on Tuesday a prosecutor told The Associated Press they had confirmed only 12 dead and three people were reported missing.

The landslides destroyed key access roads to the remote villages, making it difficult to confirm the death toll. The government of Peru has not yet released official figures, although the president traveled to the affected area on Tuesday.

The slides that began Sunday and continued Monday from the highest mountains in the area destroyed everything in their path.

People were helpless and could only watch as the mud and rocks swept away their homes in the five villages, where miners have lived for 20 years.

Dramatic video footage from the region shows people being dragged out of the mud covered in mud.

Many people slept outside for fear of more slides.

“We are isolated,” Arturo Muñoz, who lives in La Eugenia, where the landslides began on Sunday, told The Associated Press by phone.

The full extent of the damage remained unknown as rescuers were unable to get heavy machinery into the area.

The main road in the small village of Secocha was covered in a muddy mud that seemed to be everywhere and had pushed itself through doors and windows. Residents worked feverishly to remove mud from their belongings, including kitchens, refrigerators and televisions.

The prosecutor responsible for the incident, Luis Supo, reported the lower death toll on Tuesday. A day earlier, Wilson Gutiérrez, a civil defense officer for the municipality of Mariano Nicolás Valcárcel, told local media that 36 bodies had been recovered in the remote village of Posco Miski.

Supo said authorities had received the remains of only 12 people on Tuesday.

Officials said Monday the landslides had also affected bridges, irrigation canals and roads. About 630 homes were no longer usable, officials said.

Heavy rains are common in Peru in February and sometimes help trigger landslides.

Associated Press writer Franklin Briceño in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.

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