|Flood rescue in Copiapó. Photo: Carabineros de Chile|
March 26, 2015 - CHILE - Floods in northern Chile have killed at least 2 people, with a further 24 still missing.
Torrential rain and overflowing rivers have caused widespread flooding in the normally dry regions of Atacama and Antofagasta, northern Chile. A state of emergency has been called by the government in Chile for both regions. The region of Coquimbo has also been affected by heavy rain and floods. Further heavy rain is expected, particularly in Atacama.
The latest assessments (as of 26 March 2015) indicate that 760 people are homeless and 5,576 people are housed in 23 shelters that have been set up in the affected areas.
35 homes have been completely destroyed, 142 have suffered major damage and 799 minor damage, according to the latest government reports.
Victims – Death Toll Increases
The two deaths reported yesterday occurred in the coastal commune of Chañaral in the Atacama Region. Wide areas of the town were under around 1.5 metres of water yesterday.
UPDATE: Two further deaths have since been reported by the government. The deaths occurred in the town of Antofagasta in Antofagasta Region.
About 30 km away from Chañaral, the small village of El Salado has been completely inundated after the Salado river overflowed, according to local emergency services. At least 40 people had to be rescued from the village.
Several other areas, in particular the commune of Taltal, have also been affected by the floods.
The region’s capital city, Copiapo, has also seen major floods as a result of the overflowing Copiapo river. Local observers said the streets were turned to rivers.
Copiapó River Dry for 17 Years
Such massive rainfall is almost unknown in this desert area, more used to drought than flood. Deputy Superintendent of the Fire Department of Copiapo, José Codoceo said that the river has been virtually dry for the last 17 years. The photo below shows residents of Copiapó city on 24 March, waiting to see the Copiapó river flow for the first time in years.
Red alerts have been issued for the municipalities of Tocopilla, Taltal, Alto de Carmen and Antofagasta province over the last 24 hours.
Fear of mudslides as well as floods prompted 1000s of evacuations. Rescue and relief operations have been hampered by blocked roads. Chilean military and rescue teams have used helicopters to carry out evacuations.
|Floods in Chanaral, Chile, March 2015. Photo: Cristhian Acori @ Twitter|
|Raging floods in El Salado, Chile, March 2015. Photo: Bomberos de Chile|
In Atacama, over 400 houses have been damaged or destroyed and around 2,000 families have been evacuated. Power outages caused by the floods and rain in the 3 affected regions have left over 50,000 without electricity. Thousands have also been left without drinking water.
There are currently at least 24 people missing in the floods. Google have set up a “Google Person Finder” for the floods here.
Chile Fighting Disasters on Several Fronts
The floods in the north came as southern Chile battled devastating wildfires exacerbated by a severe drought. Earlier this month the Villarrica volcano in southern Chile erupted, forcing more than 3,000 people from their homes.
Peru’s Floods and Landslides
Heavy rain in neighbouring Peru has caused deadly landslides and floods over the last few days with more rain expected over the next 48 hours, particularly in coastal regions.
WATCH: Deluge in Chile.