Local residents wade through the water as a flash flood hits the city of Trujillo, 570 kilometres north of Lima on March 18, 2017, bringing mud and debris. The El Nino climate phenomenon is causing muddy rivers to overflow along the entire Peruvian coast, isolating communities and neighbourhoods. Thousands have been affected since January, and 72 people have died. Most cities face water shortages as water lines have been compromised by mud and debris. / AFP

LIMA – The death toll following the worst flooding in Peru in decades has risen to 72, Prime Minister Fernando Zavala said on Sunday, with 10 people killed in the preceding 24 hours.

“The country is experiencing one its most difficult moments in years because the population affected is much bigger in comparison to previous diasters,” he said.

Pictures showed streams swollen to fast-flowing rivers, flooding villages and carrying vehicles with them. Around 572,000 people have been affected, with many evacuated.

The centre of the country’s third largest city, Trujilio, has flooded, while hundreds of residents in the capital Lima also had to be rescued from floodwaters on Friday.

Around 70,000 people have lost all their belongings.

“There are places that have had more rainfall than during the El Nino phenomenon in 1982 and 1998,” Zavala said.

The region has been experiencing extremes of climate since the beginning of the year, with neighbouring Chile experiencing the worst wildfires in its history earlier this year following a drought.

Scientists have spoken about a “coastal El Nino,” with ocean temperatures about 5C warmer than normal causing heavy rains in the Andes. – dpa

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