Peru: Lima Teen Falls in Manhole, Swept away with Sewage


Living in Peru
Barbara Drake

For a few soles, thieves in Lima are stealing manhole covers, threatening the lives of thousands of people. So far this year, 1,900 of these covers have been stolen in Lima and Callao, creating death traps for pedestrians of all ages. From January to June, in Villa El Salvador and San Juan de Miraflores alone, 418 lids were reported as missing.

A troubling example is what happened the last Saturday in the eighth block of Avenida Morales Duárez, in the Cercado de Lima district of the city. Teenager Ray Pomiano Villanueva (15), in a moment of distraction, ran into an uncovered drain hole in the middle of the street and, before the eyes of dozens of witnesses, fell in and disappeared, dragged by the flowing sewage.

Until now [July 16, 2008] his body has not been found. According to rescue workers, Pomiano might be stranded on a beach in Callao or in a collecting drain in Los Olivos. He may have been trapped in an underground pipe.

The victim’s sister, Vanessa Pomiano, called for Sedapal to intensify its rescue efforts. "We demand that they continue searching morning, afternoon and night to find him," she said.

Criminal law specialist Luis Lamas Pucci said that the Attorney General will bring a lawsuit against the sanitation company for acting with blatant negligence.

"This is culpable homicide in its aggravated form," said Lamas. "The penalty could be four years in prison for the head of the corresponding department and even for board members. They must compensate the family for at least one million soles."