A woman holds a religious figure covered in mud as she is evacuated from her house at Copiapo city, 26 March 2015. The death toll in Chile rose after rains battered the north and caused flooding, the government said on Thursday, while 22 others were unaccounted for as the military rescued stranded villagers. Photo: Ivan Alvarado / REUTERS

By Cedar Attanasio
30 March 2015

(Latin Times) – Fourteen are confirmed dead and dozens are still missing following heavy rains in the Chilean Andes that flooded the northern regions of Atacama, Antofagasta, and Coquimbo last week. The rains started on Tuesday March 24th but have since ceased. Rescue workers are racing to evacuate residents that now face blackouts, blocked roads, and contaminated water systems.

“As we are able to reach different places, these figures are probably going to climb,” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said on Saturday. “The outlook is bleak and we need to speed things up to get to villages that remain isolated and need our help.”

The area around Atacama and Antofagasta is one of the world’s driest. Some areas receive less than a tenth of inch of precipitation per year. That’s a twentieth of the amount of rain found in California’s Death Valley. Even though last week’s rains only amounted to about one inch, runoff ran right over impermeable watershed, causing regional rivers to overflow.

Flooded towns, some 80 percent destroyed, saw cars overturned and houses filled with muddy sludge. Residents formed human chains to cross flowing roads. Front-end-loaders were used to transport people to safety. Government rescue crews reached out to miners’ encampments and rural towns that were cut off by washed-out roads.

Even for Chileans accustomed to hardship, it was one tragedy too many. Victor Zamora, who was trapped underground with 33 other miners in 2010, lost his entire house as the waters swept away most of his town.

“This is another tragedy, we have lost everything,” Zamora told the AFP.

Chile’s disaster management teams are balancing the challenges of three simultaneous natural disasters. An earthquake, 6.8 on the Richter scale, rocked Samoa yesterday, and forest fires continue to threaten communities, according to official twitter accounts. [more]

Chile Flood: Death Toll Rises To 14 After Record Rains In World's Driest Region

By Rosalba O'Brien and Antonio de la Jara
1 April 2015

SANTIAGO, Chile (Thomson Reuters) — The death toll from heavy rains and flooding that battered Chile last week has risen to 23, with another 57 still missing, and President Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday she would cancel upcoming trips to lead ongoing reconstruction efforts.

The freak torrential downpours in the Atacama desert, normally the driest in the world, destroyed homes and bridges, cut off roads, and left thousands stranded as rivers broke their banks and flash floods dramatically filled dry valleys.

Although the rains ceased by the end of last week, the clear-up operation continues, with emergency office Onemi saying on Wednesday around 4,000 people were still in temporary housing and a night-time curfew remained in place for the worst affected areas, where looting has been reported.

The Chilean air force said on Wednesday that it was looking for a helicopter that had disappeared in the Copiapo area. It was not immediately clear who was on board, although media reported that the helicopter was privately owned and carrying out rescue operations.

Rescuers say it is highly probable that the death toll will rise as more victims are found buried under tons of mud and rubble strewn over the worst-hit areas in northern Chile.

Mines in Chile, the world's top copper exporter, have not reported any serious damage, although blocked roads forced operations to halt at some projects. [more]

Death toll from massive flood in Chile rises to 23

People search among the rubble in an area which was flooded in Chanaral, northern Chile, on 1 April 2015. Photo:  Patricio Miranda / AFP Photo

Santiago, 2 April 2015 (AFP) – A helicopter taking part in the emergency relief effort in flood-hit northern Chile has crashed, killing all four people on board, the air force said Thursday.

The civilian helicopter, a Bell 206, went missing Tuesday night in Atacama region, which was devastated last week by flash floods that killed at least 24 people and left 69 missing.

The wreckage was found Thursday morning.

"Unfortunately, all the occupants of the aircraft were killed," the air force said in a statement.

The helicopter was transporting workers sent to restore water service to the tens of thousands of people left without drinking water after the floods.

The pilot was married to a cousin of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

The flash floods in the normally arid north swept away entire towns, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and send in some 7,000 soldiers and police to help with the clean-up effort.

Four relief workers killed in Chile helicopter crash



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