La Paz hit by major landslides

Monday 07th Mar 2011 by theWeather Club

Another week, another humanitarian disaster brought on by the extraordinary La Niña conditions. Bolivia, which at the end of the 2010 was suffering from a serious drought, has been inundated by unusually intense rain for over a month, leading to widespread problems. On 22nd February, the Bolivian government declared a national emergency in five of the country's nine provinces after several rivers burst their banks, leaving thousands of people homeless. Now the country's capital, La Paz, is suffering from the effects of this deluge.

Located in the Andes mountains, 3,660 meters above sea level, La Paz has a cool, dry, alpine climate, and although February is generally one of the wettest months of the year it is very rarely anything like as wet as this. The city centre is located in a canyon, surrounded on all sides by looming mountains, and the city's poorer districts are plastered all over these vertiginous hillsides - badly built, densely packed and prone to landslides at the best of times.

Starting on 25th February, as water continued to pour down on the city, the ground in several hillside districts began to crack and shift. Thankfully, city authorities and local communities acted quickly and evacuated thousands of homes before the worst of the landslides hit on 28th February, meaning that nobody died as a direct result of the flood. Nonetheless, it has been estimated that at least 1,500 homes have been damaged or destroyed by the landslides, and large parts of the city have been left without electricity or fresh water. With more rain forecast, La Paz remains under threat. La Niña continues to do her very worst.