LA PAZ – A month after a catastrophic landslide destroyed dozens of residences in a low-income area of Bolivia’s capital, hundreds of people are still living in tents while waiting for authorities to make good on a pledge to provide them with new homes.
Residents of La Paz’s San Jorge Kantutani and Inmaculada Concepcion neighborhoods have spent the past 30 days trying to resume their normal activities and organize the belongings they salvaged from the rubble.
A total of 54 tents have been set up in a field that serves as the main camp for those affected by the April 30 landslide. Many of them have buckets and blankets piled up outside their entrances since a lack of space makes it impossible for people to fit all of their belongings inside.
A sense of heightened insecurity exists inside the camp, known as Figaro, after some people’s personal property went missing.
Several of those affected told EFE that clothes hung up on clotheslines and other items left outside of tents occasionally disappear and have led to friction inside the camp.
The onset of the Southern Hemisphere winter also is an urgent problem in need of a solution.
Yerko Acuña, a representative of the landslide victims, told EFE that some tents that had served as mobile classrooms for children are now closed and appear less likely reopen as more time goes by.
“The assistance is gradually being reduced and that’s what worries us as a camp. There are around 200 of us,” he said.
Donations that had been continuous in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe now are much more infrequent, prompting concern that they will dry up completely even as people remain homeless.
Acuña called for an expedited effort to provide victims with new homes, as Bolivian President Evo Morales had promised during a visit to the camp.
For his part, the executive secretary of the La Paz mayor’s office, Alvaro Blondel, told EFE that that entity had been working diligently throughout the month to provide solutions for everyone.
“We’re working. We’re making progress. And we’re coming up with solutions. We’ve made it clear that the solutions will come gradually,” Blondel said.
He said that work involves both attending to those left homeless and stabilizing the affected area.
The number of camps has been reduced from four to three, now holding 450 families in total, while roughly 100 families who had been evacuated as a preventive measure are expected to return to their homes in the coming days.
Morales, for his part, delivered social housing over several days to people affected by the landslide, although the total number of beneficiaries still stands at 29 families and the media attention on that program has dissipated.
The effort to stabilize the area will take months and be carried out in three phases, while the eight-hectare (20-hectare) zone affected by the landslide will be transformed into a small park to avoid new illegal settlements.
Some of the homes lacked permits and were built on a former landfill site, a common practice among low-income families in La Paz.
The landslide affected around 166 houses – 68 of which were completely destroyed – and 547 families, according to the mayor’s office.
Four people declared missing after the landslide were unable to be found after a 15-day search and are presumed dead.
The zone where it occurred is one of 36 in the capital, a city of around 1 million inhabitants, that have been identified as at risk of landslides.