The residents of the Atacama Desert region are not likely to forget the wee hours of 25th March 2015 anytime soon. This is because that on that day more than 20 mm of rain was observed in just 12 hours, which is more than the annual rainfall. The heavy rainfall had resulted in the Copiapo River swelling and breaking its banks.
Though, early warnings were issued well in advance, the people and the authorities did not pay any attention to the alerts, which has led 25 people losing their lives so far.
According to some media reports, over 30,000 people in the region are living without power and about 48,500 do not have access to drinking water due to floods and mudslides.
The situation in the region still remains grim as the residents are struggling to clear the mud from their homes. The government which was slow to react is finding it tough to maintain control as there is public health emergency. Therefore, it will take time before life returns to normal in the Atacama Desert.
Updated on 27th March, 2015: In a rare occurrence, the Atacama Desert which is one of the biggest sand desert in the world recorded heavy rain on Tuesday. Heavy rains caused flash floods in one of the driest part of the world.
The annual rainfall of Antofagasta is 1.7 mm but an intense low pressure system unusually moved north and caused heavy rain of 24.4 mm in 24 hours. This system started affecting the region from Tuesday evening and torrential rainfall in the region caused the river Copiapo to start to overflow its banks and cause flash floods. As a result, the streets in Antofagasta and Copiapo got inundated. The torrential rains led to two deaths, when one person was electrocuted while the other person died in mudslides.
Relief and rescue efforts are on and people are being evacuated using choppers because of threat of mudslides. Rain and flash floods have caused power cuts and communication disruptions. According to local authorities around 38,000 people are without power and about 48,500 do not have access to drinking water. The weather outlook is not good for the people in northern Chile as more rain is expected.
The flooding in the northern parts of Chile is in contrast to southern Chile which is struggling with wildfires instigated by a severe drought.