Chile: 17 dead after desert floods

2015-03-30 20:13
(Marcelo Hernandez, AP)

(Marcelo Hernandez, AP)

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Santiago - Chile's government said on Monday that 17 people have been killed and 20 are still missing after torrential rains caused flooding in a northern desert region.

The heavy rains last week swelled rivers and led to flash-flooding that also caused power outages and blocked roads. President Michelle Bachelet's spokesperson announced on Monday that the government will provide nearly $10m to the flood-hit areas.

The precipitation in the northern city of Antofagasta was a stark example of abnormal rain in the Atacama desert, which is one of the driest on Earth. From Wednesday to Thursday morning, about 24mm fell in Antofagasta, an area that typically receives only about 1.7mm of rain in a year, according to Chile's meteorological service.

Communities in Chile's northern desert regions have been digging houses and cars out of the mud and working to reopen roads. The military has been deployed and the government said it has sent 700 tons in aid, including food, mattresses and medicine. But some said more help is needed.

"People are overwhelmed and tempers are high because the help is insufficient," said Solange Bordones, a Diaguita indigenous leader who has been helping those affected. "The military is assisting, but the people feel left behind."

Deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy has called the flooding, "the worst rain disaster to fall on the north in 80 years".

Some families had to wait on their roofs for rescue by helicopter.

"My brothers' friends helped us take the mud from our home. That's the only help we got so far," said Lissete Hola, 20, the mother of a 2-year-old whose home was swamped in downtown Copiapo. "We live just steps from the mayor's office, and we still haven't received any help."

Read more on:    chile  |  natural disasters

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