Fire in Belen, Peru

Two children are dead and three are missing after a massive fire rips through an impoverished Peruvian community.

Earlier this year Justin Cascio, Senior Editor for the Good Men Project wrote and article titled A Mission to the Venice of the Amazon, about a small community, Belen, located on the flood plains of the Amazon River in Peru. He explains,

The city of Iquitos is considered the Capital of the Amazon River, is the sixth largest in Peru, and the only city of its size that cannot be accessed by road. All travelers to Iquitos come by air or water. One of the four districts composing Iquitos is Belen, the Spanish name for Bethlehem. The rest of Iquitos does not get flooded despite being surrounded by rivers, but the poorest of the poor live on floodplains, and the poorest 13,000 inhabitants of the jungle have been pushed to the least desirable land.

The inhabitants of this community are the poorest of the poor, with no infrastructure to speak of, no running water, electricity, schools or medical facilities. This lack of available resources includes that of a fire brigade, which has turned catastrophic for the community.

An email received from Adam Frange, the executive director of Community Health Council which provides public health outreach and other much needed services to the community of Belen states,

There has been a catastrophic fire in Belen … 175 families lost their homes, two children died, and three children are still missing. Our sister organization, La Restinga, is on the ground now.

A translation of a report from La Regiόn Diario Judicial de Loreto said,

About 3 pm a fire was reported in Dante Street Blasco Núñez, sector 7 of the lower area of Belen … The incident took place because [of] an exploding ball of gas that was inside a rustic house. The situation was uncontrollable, the tongues of fire which destroyed everything in their path … it was impossible to control the flames because in the first few minutes into the incident, there was only one brigade [of] firefighters who were supported by the residents of the sector. In a moment, the men in red were left without water and … they had to use buckets and trays to take tap water … to control the fire. From a distance you could see the houses of rustic materials and palm leaf roofs were consumed in seconds … Officials said they will take action on the matter and begin working quickly as possible to support the hundreds of victims who were left homeless and in need of prompt help to meet their needs.

Too many people around the world live with limited or broken infrastructure, without access to systems most of us take for granted. It is that neglect that allows an accident to become a tragedy. People die unnecessarily because they lack the basic systems, the basic facilities, that would have saved their lives. This terrible loss did not have to happen.


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Pictures: Adam Frange

About Kathryn DeHoyos

Kathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She has 2 beautiful children, and is very happily un-married to her life partner DJ.

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