Peru declares emergency over cold weather

The Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in more than half the country due to cold weather.

Most of the areas affected are in the south, where temperatures regularly drop below zero centigrade at this time of year.

However, this time temperatures have dropped to as low as -24C.

The state of emergency means regional authorities can dip into emergency funds to provide medicine, blankets and shelter to those most affected.

Seasonal deaths

The state of emergency was declared in 16 of Peru's 24 regions.

This week Peru's capital, Lima, recorded its lowest temperatures in 46 years at 8C, and the emergency measures apply to several of its outlying districts.

In Peru's hot and humid Amazon region, temperatures dropped as low as 9C. The jungle region has recorded five cold spells this year.

Hundreds of people - nearly half of them very young children - have died of cold-related diseases, such as pneumonia, in Peru's mountainous south where temperatures can plummet at night to -20C.

Poor rural populations living at more than 3,000m above sea level are the most affected.

Doctors say malnutrition, extreme poverty and poor living conditions are major contributing factors to the seasonal deaths.

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