Record snowfalls leave over 5,000 people isolated in Chile

14:19, July 20, 2011      

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At least 5,000 inhabitants in a southern Chilean region have been isolated after parts of the area were cut off by the heaviest snowfalls in 16 years, authorities said Tuesday.

The country's National Emergency Office (ONEMI) said half of those affected live in Lonquimay, a region some 600 km south of Santiago.

Rescue efforts are underway as local authorities began clearing the roads that connect Lonquimay to the outside Monday, but many people remain out of reach, Fredy Rivas, ONEMI's regional director in Araucania, said.

The number of isolated people would fall as more roads are reopened, Rivas said, adding helicopters were deployed to transport food and other supplies to those affected areas.

Lonquimay had been hit by the worst snowfalls recorded in 16 years for 3 days.

Rivas said so far, 90 percent of Lonquimay's inhabitants have successfully been reconnected to the national electricity network.

Some 500 residents, however, remain disconnected from the services as they live in remote regions which have yet to be reached.8 Chile's Meteorological Direction has forecast that a new cold front will hit the area from about noon on Wednesday until Thursday.

"I would like to say that the worst has passed, but this is a phenomenon that only can be predicted two or three days ahead, so we cannot do anything more than to wait for the snowfalls to stop," Rivas said.

Lonquimay has requested the federal government issue an emergency decree for the area in order to receive economic resources, as the cold has caused damage worth millions of dollars to the local agriculture.

Source: Xinhua
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