Lima, March 18 (IANS) Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has announced a budgetary increase of up to $764 million for rebuilding the country after floods this week left 62 people dead, 170 injured, 11 missing and around 72,000 displaced in several regions.
Kuczynski, along with Finance Minister Alfredo Thorne, on Friday announced emergency decrees, which allow for budget increases for the reconstruction of infrastructure, and declared the Central Highway, which has constantly being affected by an overflowing Rimac river and landslides, in a state of emergency, Efe news reported.
The President said the government is in a better financial condition than 20 years ago to bear the cost of rebuilding and that even if the costs were to go up, there were funds to cover them.
"The government will have 2.5 billion soles ($764 million) available from Saturday, for reconstruction in all the affected districts," he said.
He added that 1.5 billion soles have been added to the budget to meet the emergency declared due to the natural disaster, adding to the existing amount of one billion soles.
The flood-response spending will come in addition to the $1.68 billion nationwide infrastructure plan he announced last week as an economic stimulus measure, the president said.
The Central Highway, the only paved road connecting Lima to central Peru, was operational on Friday, thereby preventing a shortage of necessities in the capital, but the force of the river carried away a stretch of the railway line running parallel to the highway.
The rising Rimac river also flooded several parts of San Juan de Lurigancho, the most populated district of Lima with 1.8 million inhabitants, while the Chillon river knocked down a bridge running through the capital, leading to a deployment of 8,000 police officers for rescue operations.
The worst affected is the North Pan-American Highway, that connects Lima with Ecuador, and along which three bridges have been destroyed, preventing aid from reaching the northern regions of Tumbes, Piura and Lambayeque, the worst affected by the disaster, by land.
The first batch of aid to these areas arrived via airlifts launched by the Peruvian Air Force with military aircrafts to carry aid and transport victims between Lima and the northern cities of Piura, Chiclayo and Trujillo.
One of the provinces with the most damage is Huarmey, in the Ancash region, about 280 km north of Lima, where some places are under half a meter of water and the hospital is flooded almost to the ceiling, according to Health Minister Patricia Garcia, who inspected the area.
In the south, the collapse of a dam holding 1.3 million cubic metres of water devastated the crops of at least 3,000 families.