2016–17 South America floods

From December 2016 and continuing until May 2017, much of western and central South America was plagued by persistent heavy rain events. In Peru, one of the most severely impacted nations, it has been referred to as the 2017 Coastal Niño (Spanish: El Niño costero de 2017). The flooding was preceded by drought-like conditions throughout the region for much of 2016 and a strong warming of sea temperatures off the coast of Peru.

2017 South America floods
JMC 3208 (32149486630).jpg
Flooding in La Tinguiña District, Peru
DateDecember 2016 – May 2017
LocationMuch of South America, most notably Ecuador and Peru
Deaths≥418 deaths, >824 injuries, 361 missing
The most impacted areas in Ecuador and Peru.
  Mildly impacted areas
  Moderately impacted areas
  Severely impacted areas
Rescuers searching through debris for survivors of the Mocoa landslide


From 2014 to 2016, the Pacific Ocean experienced a significant El Niño event. By June 2016, the El Niño had subsided but lingering drought-like conditions persisted through the southern spring in late 2016. Starting in November 2016, a localized anomalous warming of the Pacific occurred which is known locally as the Coastal Niño. A Coastal Niño is differentiated from an El Niño event in that the Coastal Niño is localized to the coasts of Ecuador and Peru and does not expand into the equatorial central Pacific Ocean or impact global temperatures.[1] This ocean warming contributed to unseasonably high rainfall in the region and, by January 2017, Peruvian officials had declared the warming a Coastal Niño occurrence.



On December 1, 2016, heavy rains in Cali triggered a landslide that claimed at least six lives. All the fatalities took place in the Siloe neighborhood where 14 homes were destroyed.[2]

During the overnight of March 31 – April 1, heavy rain affected parts of the Putumayo Department. A total of 130 mm (5.1 in) of rain fell within a few hours near the city of Mocoa.[3] This caused the Mocoa, Sangoyaco, and Mulata rivers to overflow and send mudflows towards residences and infrastructure in the city of Mocoa by 3:00 a.m.[4][5] Multiple neighborhoods were devastated in the disaster, with numerous residents caught off-guard. By the morning of 6 April, at least 301 people were known dead (including 92 children),[6][7][8] more than 400 were injured (including 167 children),[7] and a further 314 were missing.[6]


In Ecuador, at least 16 people were killed by floods or landslides. Coastal Manabí declared a state emergency and the country's largest city, Guayaquil in Guayas experienced abnormally high rain events.[9] Higher elevation regions including Quito experienced severe rains, landslides, and sinkholes towards the tail end of the Coastal Niño event as the ITCZ began moving north towards its more usual latitude.


Much of the coastal desert region of Peru was particularly hard-hit with incessant, heavy rains starting in January 2017. Most impacted were the regions of Tumbes, Piura, and Lambayeque where a state of emergency was declared on February 3, 2017.[10] These equatorial parts of Peru are typically dry throughout the summer but can be greatly impacted by climactic changes when adjacent ocean warms and the equatorial trough oscillates further south. During these occurrences, monsoon-like rains can fall in usually bone-dry ecosystems causing mudslides locally known as huaycos. The 2017 Coastal Niño was the worst to hit Peru since 1925.[1] More than 115,000 homes were demolished,[11] leaving approximately 178,000 people homeless. A total of 113 people were killed, 354 were injured, and a further 18 were missing.[12] More than 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) of roads were destroyed[13] and an estimated 1.1 million people have been directly affected by the floods. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted that 3 million people were at-risk for waterborne diseases.[14]

On March 16, a mudflow buried the village of Barbablanca; however, all 160 residents escaped.[15] On March 27, 2017, the Piura River broke its banks and flooded the city of Piura and the towns of Catacaos and Pedregal Chico.[16] In Piura, 300 mm (12 in) of rain fell in one day, three times the city's annual average and Catacaos had flood waters rise to 1.8 m (5.9 ft) high.[16][17] Further south, La Libertad, Áncash, and Lima were also impacted. Trujillo experienced severe localized flooding in its ravines and Huarmey was badly flooded.


In Brazil, Heavy rains on March 11–13, 2017, including 110 mm (4.3 in) in 24 hours, caused flooding across Rio Grande do Sul, killing 2 people, injuring 70, and leaving 10 others missing.[18]

Further south, in Chile, unusually heavy rains affected areas around Santiago starting in February 2017. Flooding and landslides killed at least eighteen people and left few others missing.[19][20]


  1. ^ a b "5 preguntas para entender el Fenómeno El Niño costero que golpea Perú". RPP (in Spanish). Mongabay. 1 April 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  2. ^ Monitoring Emergencies: Colombia - 12/02/2016: Strong rains in Cali cause flooding, landslides (Report). ReliefWeb. Pan American Health Organization. December 2, 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  3. ^ "234 killed, 400+ injured or missing in Colombia mudslide – Red Cross". RT. 2 April 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  4. ^ Colombia – Avalancha e inundaciones en Mocoa (Putumayo) Flash Update No. 1 (01/04/17) (PDF) (Report) (in Spanish). ReliefWeb. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 1 April 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Tragedia en Mocoa: "Eran las 3:00 a.m. cuando sintieron el remezón y la naturaleza los arrastró"". El País (in Spanish). 1 April 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Colombia probes Mocoa landslide as death toll tops 300". Aljazeera. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Tragedia en Mocoa: van 254 muertos y centenares de heridos por avalancha". Semana (in Spanish). 2 April 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Death toll 254 and counting as Colombia reels under mudslides". The Hindu. Mocoa: Associated Press. 3 April 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Árboles se caen en medio de torrencial lluvia de ayer en Guayaquil" (in Spanish). El Universo. 1 March 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  10. ^ "South America: Floods and Landslides - Dec 2016". ReliefWeb.int. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  11. ^ Wright, Pam (20 March 2017). "Flooding, Mudslides Strike Peru, Leaving 72 Dead and Thousands without Homes". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Perú Temporada de lluvias" (PDF). RedHum. April 4, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  13. ^ "Death toll rises to 113 in Peru floods, mudslides". Yahoo News. 19 April 2017.
  14. ^ Peru: Heavy Rains and Floods Summary - UN Resident Coordinator Situation Report No. 05 (As of 5 April 2017) (PDF) (Report). ReliefWeb. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. April 5, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  15. ^ Franklin Briceno (March 25, 2017). "Mudslide buries Peruvian village, leaving little to claim". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  16. ^ a b Fernandes, Deepa (14 September 2017). "Before Houston flooded, there was Piura, Peru". PRI. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Peru floods: Four killed as Piura bursts its banks". BBC. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  18. ^ Brazil - Severe Weather (Local Media, WMO, INMET) (ECHO Daily Flash of 13 March 2017) (Report). ReliefWeb. European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. March 13, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  19. ^ "Chile floods leave millions of people without drinking water in Santiago". The Guardian. February 26, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  20. ^ "Floods in Chile leave 18 dead and 450 evacuees". TRT Spanish. February 28, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.