The Heat Is Online

Parts of southern Chile Buried Under 9 Feet of Snow

Chile declares snow 'catastrophe'

Storms isolate thousands; pipes, gas tanks freeze in mountainous Auracania region, July 21, 2011

LONQUIMAY, Chile -- Chilean officials have declared a "catastrophe" in eight southern districts where heavy snowfall over four days left thousands of people isolated.

Chilean President Sebastian Piñera said the declaration will free up more resources to aid those who need help in the mountainous Auracania region.

Piñera described the polar front the worst the region has seen in 30 years, The Patagonia Times reported. Snow piled up over 9 feet in some areas.

Sub-zero temperatures froze pipes, leaving most of Lonquimay, a town of just over 10,000 population at 9,000 feet elevation, without water.

Fuel in some vehicles' gas tanks also froze, local media reported.

Snow-covered roads prevented aid sent by regional authorities from reaching its destination. La Segunda reported 400 boxes were sent to Lonquimay but only 25 arrived.

"In four days we have had four months worth of snowfall,” said Regional Governor Miguel Mellado in an interview with Canal 13. “We’ve got a very difficult situation here."

The communities declared as part of the disaster area are Lonquimay, Curralehue, Melipeuco, Curacautín, Pucón, Cunco, Vilcún and Villarrica.

The worst may be over.

Precipitation was expected to end Thursday and daytime temperatures were expected to reach nearly 60 degrees by Saturday.

© 2011