Torrential Storms in a Usually Dry Chile Forces the Government to Declare a State of Emergency
SANTIAGO, CHILE - The Chilean government declared a state of emergency and ordered an evacuation for hundreds of residents yesterday.
The normally dry region was hit with torrential storms and thunder, necessitating aid from military helicopters. According to reports, these are the heaviest storms the country has seen in about 80 years.
Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo told the New York Times that the states of emergency gives control to the armed forces to expedite rescuing and getting resources to those affected, as well as ensuring public order.
“The weather situation is extremely complex,” Peñailillo said in the report. “We’re asking the people of Atacama to self-evacuate to safe zones.”
The dangerous weather has already claimed the lives of four, according to a Reuters report, with 22 still missing. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet flew in to the flood-hit areas on Wednesday night.
While many of the country’s fields are parched from the drought, climatologist Claudia Villarroel told Reuters that the rain is falling in a different areas and will not bring an end to the region’s 8-year-long drought.
"These rains serve to accumulate water, but the superficial run-off is very high,” Villarroel said, according to the report. “What is best is a little, constant rain.”
Mahmud Aleuy, Deputy Interior Minister, told Reuters that as of this morning the city of Copiapo, about 500 miles north of Santiago, is also partly cut off. As a result airports in both Copiapo and Antofagasta further to the north have been closed to commercial air traffic.
For now it appears the weather has calmed, according to multiple forecasts, though total damages remain unknown. Stay tuned to AndNowUKnow as the story develops.