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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Peru cold snap kills 59
Peruvian child amidst the snow
Children have been particularly hard hit
The authorities in Peru say severe cold weather has killed at least 59 people, most of them children, in the south-east of the country.

The freezing cold has left more than 60,000 people without food and shelter.


What there is there is not poverty, it's extreme misery. The government is doing everything humanly in its reach

Vice President Raul Diez Canseco
Vice President Raul Diez Canseco said some remote communities, already living in extreme misery, needed urgent aid.

The cold snap has also killed one-fifth of the country's herds of llamas and alpacas - the mainstay of the rural economy.

The Peruvian President, Alejandro Toledo, declared a state of emergency in eight provinces over the weekend, as officials asked for international help with the rescue efforts.

Roads blocked

The unusual cold spell struck south-eastern Peru more than a week ago, forcing temperatures to -12 degrees Celsius (10 Fahrenheit).

Up to one metre (three feet) of snow fell in some areas.

Llamas searching for food in the snow
Some 80,000 llamas and alpacas have died

The snow has for the most part stopped falling, but the continuing freezing temperatures have caused many children and elderly people to contract pneumonia and bronchitis, health officials said.

The snow and ice have made most roads impassable, severely hampering efforts to get food and supplies through.

Helicopters have been pressed into action by Civil Defence Department officials to get supplies of food, medicine and blankets through.

But strong winds and dangerously high altitudes mean that helicopters cannot be used in some areas, forcing local authorities to send supplies by rescue patrols on foot.

State of emergency

The Civil Defence Department said it has sent 152 tons of humanitarian aid to affected areas, but more is urgently needed, especially in remote areas.

"What there is there is not poverty, it's extreme misery. The government is doing everything humanly in its reach," Mr Diez Canseco said.

Mr Toledo has declared a state of emergency in eight provinces where more than 66,000 need shelter and food.

Officials from one of the main livestock organisations in Peru, the National Council for South American Cameloids, say up to 20% of the country's alpacas and llamas could be wiped out.

Thousands dead

Pasture land has been buried under deep snow, leaving the animals with no food and exposed to pneumonia.

According to early estimates as many as 80,000 animals have already died.

The cameloid council said Peru has 3 million alpacas, one million llamas, 140,000 vicunas and 4,000 guanacos - all related to camels.

Their meat, milk and wool sustain the traditional Indian communities in Peru's Andean highlands.

See also:

20 Jun 02 | Country profiles
21 Mar 02 | Americas
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