Death toll from Chile flooding hits 24 with scores missing
The death toll from heavy rains and flooding in northern Chile last week has now risen to at least 24, as some 70 other people are still reported missing.
“I’m convinced that more bodies will appear,” the mayor of the town of Chanaral, Yerko Guerra, said Wednesday, as more victims are found buried under tons of mud and rubble.
Heavy rainfall and the overflowing of the Copiapo river led to flash floods that swept across normally arid parts of northern Chile and inundated entire towns last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, President Michelle Bachelet has canceled her trip to Panama for the Summit of the Americas on April 10 and 11, to deal with the crisis, saying, “I have instructed the government to keep working non-stop until people’s lives have returned to normal.”
According to reports, a helicopter carrying four people also went missing during emergency relief work in the desert region of Atacama.
Hundreds of residents in the affected regions have been forced to leave their homes as heavy rains cut off power supplies and damaged homes and roads. People are now living in temporary shelters without water and electricity.
Some 7,000 soldiers and police have also been deployed in the flood-stricken north to assist the cleanup operations and maintain security.
Regional health officials have warned of the outbreak of diseases due to mud and lack of drinking water.
The last major flood to hit northern Chile was in 1997.
Northern Chile’s floods come as southern Chile is in the midst of wildfires exacerbated by a severe drought.