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Flash floods, called huaicos in Peru, leave a swathe of destruction in their wake; photo: El Comercio

The destructive power of flash floods in Peru

Videos show quite graphically the disruptive force of Peruvian “huaicos”


For nearly two weeks now some areas in central and southern Peru including the coastal regions are heavily affected by extreme weather conditions. Excessive rainfalls in regions were usually no or little rain occurs and long torrential downpours in the highlands, caused numerous extremely destructive so-called huaicos.

Huaicos or huaycos is the Peruvian term for flash floods caused by torrential rains. They combine the destructive power of a normal flood with incredible high speeds and unpredictability. Everything in the path of a huaico, including mud, stones and trees, but as well cars, trucks and even houses, is carried away forming a fast-flowing front of water and debris.

The flash floods of the past 10 days all over Peru caused the death of about a dozen people, the destruction of thousands of houses and severe damages to general infrastructure and crops.

Flash floods are often underestimated and usually don’t look very threatening on photos. What makes flash floods so dangerous is that they appear out of nowhere with no or little warning with extremely fast-moving and rapidly rising water.

And a vehicle provides little to no protection against the power of this fast-flowing stream of water, mud and debris; worldwide more than half of the fatalities attributed to flash floods are people swept away in vehicles when getting caught by the waters or trying to cross flooded intersections.

Below videos were published by the Peruvian daily El Comercio and show quite graphically the destructive power of a flash flood that occurred earlier today in the Arequipa region. While this huaico killed three people in their vehicles, the truck drivers in the first video and the persons in the car shown in the second video escaped with no more than a fright and were rescued unharmed.

Due to the graphic nature of the videos, viewer discretion is advised.

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