Torrential rains last week in Peru have caused some of the worst — and deadly — flooding seen there in two decades, yet one Quad-City native has no plans to leave the country.
Daniel Klopp, a 1994 graduate of Pleasant Valley High School, has called the nation on the west coast of South America his full-time residence since 2003.
The 40-year-old lives in a “small apartment” in the country’s coastal capital of Lima and runs Voices 4 Peru, a nongovernmental organization he founded in 2000 that provides services to low-income children and families.
“I feel really responsible,” Klopp said Monday night by phone via WhatsApp, a free messaging, voice and video call app for smartphones. “We have kids in our school that I started. This is my family.”
On Saturday, Peruvian authorities updated the number of dead from the latest flooding and mudslides to 72. Other reports estimate that thousands of homes have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the storms.
Meanwhile, Lima has been without water service since last week. Klopp said he filled six large cooking pots with water before it was shut off.
He also noted prices of basic needs, such as food and water, have skyrocketed in recent days. The government has acknowledged that prices have shot up some 5 percent because of the flooding.
On Tuesday, Klopp spent $300 in donations to transport 200 gallons of water to an impoverished community in the district of Ventanilla, about 20 miles north of Lima, where Voices 4 Peru is based. Intense rains last week damaged the roof of the organization's community center, which Klopp and others plan to fix this week.
“We’re doing the best we can with all chaos going on,” said Klopp, who serves 300 to 400 people every week. "We're trying to keep morale and spirits up. I think they're scared that the worst is yet to come."
The highly unusual rains in the arid region followed a series of storms that struck hard along Peru's northern coast. The storms are being caused by a warming of the surface waters in the Pacific Ocean and are expected to continue for another two weeks.
Peru's government said 374 people were killed in 1998 during a similar period of massive rains and flooding caused by rains blamed on the El Niño climate pattern.
If additional heavy rains inundate the area, Klopp is worried that a bridge between Lima, his home, and Ventanilla, his work, could fail.
"We could be stuck on either side if that collapsed," said Klopp, who was added to Pleasant Valley High School's "Wall of Fame" for his work in 2010.
Last September, the expatriate visited his father, Calvin, in Davenport and plans to return this spring.
“I’ll be coming back again — well, if I get out — in May," he said, calling his father his idol. "He knows I'm a bit stressed."
But despite widespread panic around him, a calm Klopp said he is running steady on adrenaline.
Klopp, who is single, stressed that he is not a “radical Christian extremist” and that he believes it is his mission to serve others.