Chile’s Pres­i­dent Bachelet vis­its the flood-hit north; 25 killed, 125 miss­ing

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Chile’s Pres­i­dent Michelle Bachelet vis­ited the flood-hit north of the coun­try where at least 25 peo­ple died and 125 oth­ers are still miss­ing, vow­ing to “rebuild” the stricken re­gion.

Flash floods across the Ata­cama area, home to the world’s dri­est desert, sub­merged en­tire towns and left thou­sands of peo­ple home­less.

“We stand with you, as we have from the be­gin­ning, and we will rebuild,” Bachelet said Satur­day as she toured the re­gion.

“It pains me to see my coun­try in such a state ... we will find a so­lu­tion.”

Bachelet had can­celed a trip to a re­gional sum­mit to cope with the cri­sis in Ata­cama, where en­tire build­ings were re­duced to rub­ble and towns were caked in mud af­ter dev­as­tat­ing land­slides.

The death toll could in­crease fur­ther with 125 still miss­ing, of­fi­cials said. The num­ber of miss­ing was re­cently in­creased by 24 peo­ple fol­low­ing a new count by emer­gency of­fi­cials.

In ad­di­tion, mud­slides trig­gered by melt­ing An­dean snow wiped out roads and flat­tened build­ings.

Ac­cord­ing to a tally re­leased Fri­day by the Na­tional Emer­gency Of­fice, about 2,700 vic­tims of the flood­ing are be­ing housed in emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion and as many as 30,000 peo­ple have been af­fected.

Aid work­ers have helped to re­store es­sen­tial ser­vices and pro­vide hun­dreds of tons of food, hy­giene and health prod­ucts.

The gov­ern­ment also sent 89,000 doses of flu vac­cine, 27,000 against tetanus and 7,600 against hep­ati­tis A.

Health of­fi­cials have warned there is a high risk of out­breaks of gas­troin­testi­nal and re­s­pi­ra­tory dis­eases be­cause of the mud and short­ages of drink­ing wa­ter.

Chile is a ma­jor met­als pro­ducer and of­fi­cials said they would test the soil in flood-hit ar­eas for pos­si­ble mine con­tam­i­na­tion.

Bachelet said gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials were look­ing into the risk of dis­ease out­breaks and were com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing sup­port to vic­tims.

On her trip Bachelet vis­ited a nearby town where the gov­ern­ment and other or­ga­ni­za­tions were build­ing houses for flood vic­tims.

“We have come to make sure that (re­cov­ery ef­forts) are work- ing, that you have enough drugs, that you have enough vac­cines,” she said.

The down­pour which be­gan on March 24 lashed the area for hours, turn­ing riverbeds that had been dry for years into tor­rents.

The gov­ern­ment de­clared a state of emer­gency in the area and sent in troops.

Un­der Pres­sure

The pres­i­dent’s tour comes as she faces low ap­proval lev­els — around 31 per­cent — af­ter ac­cu­sa­tions her son was in­volved in in­flu­ence ped­dling.

A num­ber of other mon­eyand-pol­i­tics scan­dals have raised doubts from eco­nomic groups over the coun­try that has a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the least cor­rupt in Latin Amer­ica.

When asked about the al­le­ga­tions on her tour, Bachelet said peo­ple should not jump to con­clu­sions and al­low pros­e­cu­tors to do their work.

“Let the in­sti­tu­tions work,” Bachelet said.

“I feel that we are fall­ing into an at­ti­tude in the coun­try of dis­trust of ev­ery­thing, imag­in­ing that ev­ery­thing is bad when the truth is it isn’t like that.”


A full moon is seen as it rises over the New York City sky­line seen from West Or­ange, New Jer­sey on Satur­day, April 4.

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