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Chilean officials declare 'catastrophe' after heavy snow

By the CNN Wire Staff
Some 16,000 residents of rural areas in Araucania remain isolated due to heavy snowfall, authorities report.
Some 16,000 residents of rural areas in Araucania remain isolated due to heavy snowfall, authorities report.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Officials in one city say more than 2.3 meters of snow have fallen
  • CNN Chile affiliate: More than 6,500 are isolated in one town
  • "It has snowed more than ever," Curacautin Mayor Jorge Saquel says
  • The interior minister calls the snowstorm a "white earthquake"

(CNN) -- Chilean officials declared a "catastrophe" in eight municipalities Wednesday after heavy snow blanketed communities and blocked roads in what the nation's interior minister called a "white earthquake."

"It has snowed more than ever," Curacautin Mayor Jorge Saquel told CNN Chile Tuesday. "This is an anomaly. ... This worries us because the meteorologists assure us that new snowstorms are coming."

In the city of Lonquimay, officials said snow had piled more than 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) high.

Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter on Wednesday called the situation a "white earthquake" and asked the country's military and public works officials to help citizens in some of the hardest-hit areas in the country's central Araucania region.

"This storm is strong and it is likely that in the coming days we could suffer from more bad weather fronts, more heavy snowfall, that make the situation even worse," Hinzpeter said. "But of course when this occurs, our government will always be on the side of those who are suffering, using all the tools provided by our legal system."

Chile's 'white earthquake'
RELATED TOPICS
  • Chile
  • Winter Weather
  • Weather
  • South America

Authorities said they were sending trucks filled with food to the region, along with military helicopters to reach people in remote areas.

More than 6,500 people remained isolated Wednesday in Lonquimay, a town with many living in outlying, rural areas, CNN Chile affiliate Universidad Autonoma Television reported.

Earlier this week, local officials said federal assistance had not arrived quickly enough.

"The settlers and people of Lonquimay are buried undered the snow. There are areas with more than 2.3 meters of snow and we have gone many days without being able to communicate with many of them," Lonquimay Mayor Guillermo Vasquez said in a statement Monday.

"The emergency director promised us two bulldozers to clear the roads. We have people who are isolated. ... Touching the snow, it is like glass," Saquel told CNN Chile. "The machines and food should have arrived as soon as possible."

 
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