Feb 19, 2012

Chile Atacama Desert: driest place on Earth pounded by days of heavy rains

February 19, 2012 CHILEFour days of heavy rain in Chile’s Atacama Desert have forced hundreds from their homes as swollen rivers broke their banks and loosened soil gave way to a second landslide in less than a week. The settlements in the world’s driest desert remain on alert as the usually slow moving rivers furiously churn their way down the highland plateau to the Pacific Ocean. Some local towns have seen as much as two metres of flooding and some 800 residents have been forced from their homes. “It is all ruined. Just like you can see. Everything is lost, I have to start all over again,” said a resident of the town of Toconao. Comparing the disaster to wild fires that forced the closing of Chile’s Patagonian Torres del Paine National Park, Economy Minister Pablo Longueira vowed the government would act quickly for residents and get the tourism industry here back on its feet as quickly as possible. “We are going to try to move as quickly as possible. Just like in Torres del Paine [National Park], which was unfortunately struck with another fire last week, we are going to remove all tourist activities as quickly as possible. We are completely aware of how important San Pedro de Atacama is for Chile,” Longueira said. Officials have not reported any deaths but have warned residents to remain alert. –Telegraph