By Carlos Mandujano
A landslide on Tuesday in the northern Peruvian town of Retamas has buried dozens of homes and trapped at least 15 people, according to authorities.
A video circulating on social media shows a hill’s collapse, and the person filming can be heard screaming “No! God! It’s all buried.”
Manuel Llempen, the governor of the La Libertad region where Retamas is located, told RPP radio that “the landslide has buried, according to the preliminary report, approximately 60 to 80 houses.”
“They are completely buried,” he added.
“We have estimated between 15 and 20 people who are still missing,” Defense Minister Jose Gavidia said on a visit to the town on Tuesday night, some 12 hours after the collapse of the hill.
Officials earlier said there were at least three children among the missing.
The landslide occurred around 8:30 am local time (1330 GMT), according to Peru’s National Emergency Operations Center (COEN).
Retamas sits high in the Andes, at about 800 meters (9,000 ft).
The town’s police commissioner, Lieutenant Carlos Alberto Valderrama, told AFP that the police and fire departments were continuing their rescue operation.
“We have managed to rescue four people, among them a Venezuelan citizen who was trapped in a market. So far we have found no fatalities,” Valderrama said.
“The area is blocked off. There are cracks in the hill — we have been warned that there could be another landslide.”
‘Left us with nothing’
Retamas, a mining town, is a 16-hour drive from the regional capital of Trujillo on the Pacific coast.
“I was able to get out in time, but my house was buried. The landslide left us with nothing,” Ledy Leiva, who escaped with five other members of her family, told RPP radio.
Several people buried in the mud and rock were rescued by neighbors who drilled through their roofs and walls, local media reported.
“There are many people trapped… inside their houses,” Governor Llempen said.
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo said he would visit the stricken town and promised government support for affected families.
“I am heading to Pataz province [where Retamas is located] to see the area affected by the landslide that occurred this morning,” the president tweeted after delivering a speech to Congress.
Earlier in the day Castillo ordered the defense minister and a team from the INDECI (Peruvian Civil Defense) to the landslide site.
In 2009, at least 13 people were killed in Retamas by another landslide, including one child.
“This place has already been identified as a high-risk zone,” warned Miguel Yamazaki, INDECI’s director of preparedness.
Landslides occur most often in Peru’s Andean region during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer months, which are the country’s rainy season.