Storms in Chile damage homes, flood roads and leave at least 1 person dead

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Heavy rains lashed much of Chile on Thursday, damaging homes, flooding roads, knocking out power and causing mudslides that have swept through residential areas.

Storms have drenched the center and south Chile throughout the week, displacing people and closing schools. More than 2,000 homes have been damaged and 60,000 have lost power. Heavy winds caused a large tree to fall on a tractor, killing one person late Wednesday.

Authorities have declared a “disaster zone” across a large stretch of the country including the capital Santiago and seven other provinces. In the particularly hard-hit Bio Bio region south of Santiago, landslides crushed dozens of homes that had been evacuated hours earlier.

In Viña del Mar, a coastal resort city popular among tourists, flooding forced the evacuation of some 150 people.

After causing a trail of destruction in the south, the frontal system - a meteorological phenomenon that combines warm and cold masses of air that result in heavy precipitation - moved to Santiago.

“The city is resisting, but we call for responsibility,” said the metropolitan region’s Gov. Claudio Orrego, urging residents to stay indoors.

As a preventive measure, the education ministry ordered the suspension of classes in seven of Chile’s 16 regions, including the capital, for the rest of the week.

Chile has some 84,000 kilometers (52,195 miles) of coastline, more than 1,250 rivers, and rugged topography with no more than 20% of its area being flat terrain, leaving it vulnerable to natural disasters and hindering rescue efforts.

Nayara Batschke, The Associated Press