3 dead, several missing after Chile floods
At least 3 people are dead and 19 others are missing after torrential rains sparked large scale flooding near Chile's capital, Santiago. In the Cajon del Maipo mountainous region, authorities fear over 400 people may be cut off from rescue services and may remain isolated until help arrives. In addition, water-supply for over 4 million people in Santiago has been contaminated and cut-off.
Has this happened before in Chile?
In April 2016, severe rains caused flooding around Santiago. In the aftermath of the flooding, thousands of people were evacuated, power was cut off to 800,000 people and over 4.5 million residents couldn't get drinking water due to contamination. Several copper mining operations in the area were also shut. Authorities vowed to improve the water intake system to avoid a repeat of the incident.
Weather wreaks havoc in Chile
Chile's summer months are usually dry. In recent weeks, deadly forest fires in the country killed 11 people and decimated almost 2000 sq miles of territory, due to dry weather, fanned by winds. By late January'17, the fires had left the capital Santiago in a cloud of haze, creating a sudden drop in temperature. Authorities speculate this led to un-seasonal rains around Santiago.
How did drinking water get affected?
The Maipo river supplies the capital of Chile, Santiago with all its drinking water needs. However, the recent floods, triggered landslides, which not only blocked off the intake pipes from the rivers, but also contaminated the river with chemical runoffs from nearby mining operations. People are frustrated at the government's efforts as this is the second time in a year that this has happened.
How are people coping up?
The government said it had restored water supply to 50% of the affected areas. However, several areas remained without water. People used emergency taps (provided by the govt) to fill buckets of water, and stocked up on mineral water from supermarkets. Analysts say the government's poor efforts at averting such situations may become poll issues during elections scheduled this year.
President appeals for calm
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet appealed for calm, saying "Emergency teams are working on the ground to connect with isolated persons and re-establish the water supply wherever possible."