Oruro (Bolivia) (AFP) - Bolivia Oruro Carnival got under way Saturday with stunning costumes and parades, though the mood was dampened by the loss of 17 people killed in flooding and 8,200 families left homeless by heavy rains since November.
President Evo Morales said climate change had "shown up at Carnival, leaving disasters, with the loss of human lives and of homes."
About 25,000 dancers take part in the pre-Lenten blowout that is Bolivia's biggest tourist attraction and brings as many as half a million people to the sleepy town.
The pageant along the city's cobblestones is a mixture of Spanish colonial traditions with those of the ancient indigenous Inca and Aymara peoples in a ritual seeking better farming and good health.
In 2001, the UNESCO cultural organization declared the carnival an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.