South American cold kills 175

2010-07-20 11:38

Buenos Aires - At least 175 people have died in the coldest winter in South America in recent years, officials in six affected countries said.

The cold was worst in southern Peru, where temperatures in higher altitudes of the Andes dropped to -23°. Officials said on Monday since the beginning of last week, 112 people had died of hypothermia and flu.

Argentina measured the coldest temperatures in 10 years. Sixteen people froze to death and 11 died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to faulty heaters.

In Bolivia, 18 people died, in Paraguay five and two each in Chile and Uruguay. Nine people died of the cold in southern Brazil.

Thousands of cattle also froze to death on their pastures in Paraguay and Brazil. There are no stables for the animals as temperatures usually do not drop that low.

Several regions in Bolivia and Peru closed schools until the end of the week and larger cities opened emergency shelters for homeless people.

Electricity and gas networks are operating at capacity limits in many of the affected regions. Argentina reported natural gas shortages in several provinces.

The poorest population groups are worst affected by the cold spell with their homes poorly equipped to deal with the cold, lack of heating and access to health care.