Chile's Bachelet visits flood-hit north after 25 killed
SANTIAGO, Chile – Chile's President Michelle Bachelet visited the flood-hit north of the country where at least 25 people died this week, vowing to "rebuild" the stricken region.
Flash floods broke out last week across the Atacama area, home to the world's driest desert, submerging entire towns and leaving thousands of people homeless.
"We stand with you, as we have from the beginning, and we will rebuild," Bachelet said as she toured the region.
"It pains me to see my country in such a state... we will find a solution," she vowed.
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 the devastating landslides.
The death toll could increase further with another 101 still missing, officials said.
In addition, mudslides, triggered by melting Andean snow, wiped out roads and flattened buildings.
According to a tally put out Friday, April 3, 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 so far 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.
Bachelet said government officials were looking into the risk of disease outbreaks and were committed to providing the necessary support to victims.
"We have come to make sure that (recovery efforts) are working, that you have enough drugs, that you have enough vaccines," she said.
Last week's downpour 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 to respond to the crisis. – Rappler.com