In the face of the worst natural disaster Peru has experienced in decades, the Argentine Air Force (FAA, per its Spanish acronym) sent a Hercules C-130 aircraft to assist victims. From March 21st–31st, the Peruvian Air Force assumed operational control of the aircraft belonging to the 1st Air Brigade of El Palomar. The aircraft did its work in the Andean nation in cooperation with the air forces of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and the U.S.
The aircraft transported 15 FAA troops divided into two crews (one with seven members and the other with eight) to conduct humanitarian work in areas hard to reach by land. It also transported nine volunteers from the Argentine White Helmets Commission specializing in water treatment and disaster response who provided assistance in tandem with the FAA.
“It is very important for FAA to be able to pitch in during natural disasters like the one experienced by our sister nation, Peru,” FAA Vice Commodore and Hercules C-130 pilot Daniel Máspero told Diálogo. “The mudslide and floods affected the central and northern areas of the country, in particular, causing an enormous loss of human life and material damage,” he said.
More than 800 Peruvian municipalities have declared a state of emergency. Figures from the National Emergency Operations Center (COEN, per its Spanish acronym) published in the March 20th issue of the newspaper El Comercio show that the storms and mudslides left 75 dead, claimed close to 100,000 other victims, and damaged 135,000 homes. According to the COEN’s estimates, the heavy rains lashing the country as a result of the El Niño phenomenon had a direct or indirect impact on a total of 626,298 people.
Cargo and passenger transport
The 15 service members who traveled to Peru on the Hercules C-130 worked practically around the clock to provide humanitarian assistance. Their specific mission was to transport cargo from Lima to Trujillo (Peru’s third largest city and one of the hardest hit by the storms), and to Chiclayo and other municipalities in northern Peru near the Ecuadoran border.
On the return trip, the aircraft also evacuated victims to Lima. This crucial airlift brought relief to thousands of residents of the most flooded regions. “We transported 168,000 kilos of cargo, including food, sheets, and medicine,” Vice Cmdre. Máspero reported. “We have also evacuated between 530 and 540 people to Lima from northern Peru.”
The Argentine White Helmets team, in turn, delivered 4,000 blankets and 40 boxes of water-purification tablets, enough to treat more than eight million liters of water, as reported by the Télam news agency on March 24th.
Vice Cmdre. Máspero stressed the importance of humanitarian aid missions in strengthening regional cooperation among different armed forces. “In this type of humanitarian work, you interact with members of other air forces in the same disaster area,” he said. “We were on call for the Peruvian Air Force, which drew up the daily flight plan for the work to be done in different regions and gave us all the support we needed to carry out the plans.”
The Argentine service members cooperated with the air forces of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and the United States, whose large aircraft shared the same flight plan. “The [Argentine] aircraft operated alongside other aircraft in the region within the framework of the System of Cooperation Among the American [Air] Forces, established to assist communities in areas where natural disasters have occurred,” the Argentine Ministry of Defense stated in an April 7th press release.
Vice Cmdre. Máspero also highlighted the service members’ strong sense of solidarity with the people affected by the floods. “On a personal level, it is always an honor and a source of pride to participate in these types of missions with our call to service, knowing we can help people who need it, like those in Peru,” he said during an interview with Diálogo.