LIMA, Feb 8, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Peru's embattled President Dina Boluarte on Tuesday inspected a southern region ravaged by mudslides that killed at least 15 people and affected thousands.
Authorities fear the latest official toll of 15 could be much higher after rock and mud slides caused by torrential rains buried homes and buildings and washed away roads and other infrastructure since Sunday.
Boluarte, also dealing with a two-month-old grassroots uprising against her government, inspected the damage in a fly-over of the province of Camana, some 840 kilometers (521 miles) south of the capital Lima.
"We could see that the roads are already reopening so that aid can arrive immediately," the president told reporters. "We are working on a very rapid response to this critical situation."
On Tuesday, the government began sending 61 tons of humanitarian aid to affected areas.
The official death toll from the mudslides is 15, but rescuers said many more people likely died.
- 'Entire homes gone' -
Twenty people are officially reported injured and two missing, while up to 12,000 people suffered some form of damage in the disaster, according to the INDECI civil defense institute and the Arequipa regional government.
Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed in the region, as well as a clinic and several roads, said INDECI.
From the town of Secocha, one of the hardest hit in Camana province, Pedro Bocanegra told AFP he and his family "have witnessed houses collapsing, entire homes gone, families buried."
"There are many people, many families who have lost everything," the 27-year-old artisanal miner said by telephone.
He said residents were using their hands and available machinery to find survivors under the debris, so far unaided by police or military reinforcements due to blocked road access.
Peruvian media report as many as 40 dead.
Arequipa governor Rohel Sanchez said Monday there was a high probability that miners were trapped in collapsed gold mines in the affected southern regions.
Other landslides Sunday in two districts of the central region of Lima left 265 people homeless and another 365 with damage to their homes, according to authorities.
Peru's southern regions have been at the center of protests that erupted on December 7 to demand Boluarte's resignation, the dissolution of congress and new elections after the arrest of her predecessor, Pedro Castillo.
Forty-seven civilians and a policeman have been killed in weeks of clashes since then.