UPDATE: Drinking water cut, bridge collapsed, flights cancelled

For more than a week, unexpected and heavy rains have hit the Antofagasta region, causing road and border crossing closures. The extreme rainfall is causing floods in the northern part of Chile, especially in the Loa River area, and interrupting drinking water supply in the city of Calama, which has been without water for five days.

According to the National Emergency Office of the Ministry of the Interior (Onemi), a Red Alert was declared for the province of El Loa and the commune of Antofagasta, due to the threat in the foothills and mountain ranges after the current floods.

“Until next Saturday, February 9, moderate to strong rainfall is expected in the foothills and mountains of the regions of Arica and Parinacota and Tarapacá. In addition, between Friday, February 8, and Sunday morning, February 10, this condition will move to the cordillera and foothills sectors of the Antofagasta Region,” the Onemi official site read.

Piñera visits area to activate emergency plan

To activate an emergency plan in the affected areas, President Sebastián Piñera traveled to Calama, suspending his vacation. Piñera also asked Minister Rodrigo Ubilla and spokesperson Emardo Hantelmann to fly to Calama.

So far, six people have died due to the recent floods, according to today’s report from Onemi.

Water shortage

Tanks and distribution points of water have been set up in the city, where desperate civilians lined up to fill bottles with drinking water.

Reacting to the incident, in a phone call with broadcaster Mega’s Morning Show, the mayor of Calama, Daniel Agusto, called for immediate and “concrete actions” to improve the delivery of drinking water. He claimed that Aguas Antofagasta had problems supplying water for people during the past few days. “There has been a profound water supply crisis. People are desperate,” he said.

Agusto said that Calama cannot handle this crisis with their current trucks, asking for immediate help before his municipality has “a total water shortage.” In response, Aguas Antofagasta will start replacing 100% of the water supply tonight.

In addition, a bridge collapsed between Calama and Chuquicamata, leaving mine workers stranded in Chuquicamata.

Loa Airport in Calama was also affected by the weather: many flights were delayed or canceled.

The Altiplanic Winter: Why is it raining in the north?

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