LA PAZ – Eight hundred Bolivian families are homeless after intense rains caused some 250 homes to collapse in this capital, but so far there have been no reports of anyone injured or worse, La Paz Mayor Luis Revilla said on Sunday.
The mayor said that the latest round of mudslides began on Saturday night in the Kupini II neighborhood and began occurring in other districts, too, destroying some 80 hectares (200 acres) of land).
So far this year the heavy rains have resulted in 60 deaths nationwide
“We’re talking about some 250 affected pieces of land ... There are approximately 800 families, including all sectors,” said Revilla, who added that the landslides are continuing as more rain-soaked hillsides give way.
The majority of the neighborhoods affected by the mudslides are poor, although there has also been some damage to more well-off areas.
There have been no reports of fatalities or injuries, but the damage has been “enormous” and “it’s the most serious landslide that the city has had,” said the mayor.
“We’ve seen how an entire zone came down. We’ve been working intensely since late last night and today we’re continuing,” said Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra at a press conference.
Some 2,000 volunteers, among them municipal officials, police, soldiers and firefighters, are working in the area to evacuate the people who have suffered damage to their homes and help them salvage their belongings.
The mayor’s office declared a “red alert” and suspended drinking water service in dozens of nearby neighborhoods to try and avoid an expansion of the landslide area.
The national and municipal governments have set up emergency camps in neighboring districts using tents and emergency services personnel to attend to the affected people.
In La Paz, Revilla said, 60 percent of the land is unstable and a year ago there was a similar landslide that destroyed 72 homes and affected 118 families.
This city of almost 1 million people is located at a confluence of unstable ravines that come down off the Andean high plateau, with many neighborhoods situated between 3,300 and 4,000 meters (10,725 and 13,000 feet) above sea level.
Civil Defense Vice Minister Hernan Tuco told state-run media that so far this year some 11,000 families had been affected by the rains and flooding around the country.
President Evo Morales declared a “national emergency” and announced that $20 million would be allocated to provide humanitarian aid and repair damage caused by the rains.