Torrential rains and floods have killed 16 people, left 24 missing and destroyed highways and homes since January, Peru's civil defense agency said Thursday as the government declared a state of emergency in four districts.
The La Niña weather phenomenon, characterized by cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, has been blamed for exacerbating rainy seasons in the Andes region this year.
Nearly half a million people have been affected by the rains, which started two months ago and have fallen hardest in the interior and on Peru's northern coast. Emergencies were declared in the districts of Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque and Ucayali.
"The magnitude of the situation demands the adoption of immediate measures that allow Indeci (Peru's civil defense agency), regional and local governments to take action to deal with the emergency and the rehabilitation of affected areas," the government said.
The floods have wrecked some 300 homes, destroyed 39 miles of highways and washed away 650 acres of crops, the civil defense group said.
In neighboring Bolivia, at least 52 people have been killed since November when floods started there, while heavy rains in Ecuador have caused more than $161 million in crop damage.