Rare Chile snowstorm leaves one dead, 337 000 homes without power

Rare Chile snowstorm leaves one dead, 337 000 homes without power

Severe thunderstorms accompanied by heavy rain, big waves and rare snowfall affected 14 of Chile's 15 regions on Saturday, July 15, 2017. The storms left at least one person dead, two seriously injured and about 337 000 homes without power in capital Santiago.

The weather system formed over the southern region of Bio Bio and brought intense electric storms, especially along the coast, Xinhua reports. By the end of the day, Magallanes, at Chile’s southern tip, was the only part of the country that was not under some type of weather alert.

Chile’s meteorological direction issued an alert for electric storms in the regions of La Araucania and the coast of Aysen, while strong rains battered Maule.

Santiago and other towns around the capital reported rare snowfalls and temperatures of -3 °C (26.6 °F), while the provinces of San Felipe, Los Andes and Valparaiso were under a weather alert for sleet and frost.

In the northern region of Atacama, officials declared an alert for strong winds.

Capital Santiago saw up to 5 cm (2 inches) of snow which proved extremely hazardous for the city's electricity distribution. The National Emergency Office (ONEMI) reported that trees and branches fell on the electric lines, cutting power to 337 000 homes and leaving no possibility of heating to every seventh resident of the city in the middle of a cold wave. In addition, hospitals across the metropolitan region reported problems associated with power interruptions.

Meteorologists said the snowfall followed an unusually cold period for the region and was the heaviest seen in Santiago since 2007.

At least one person was killed and two seriously injured. The death occurred in a work-related accident in the Metropolitan region when a worker fell because of the ice accumulated on the ground. The two people injured were electrocuted by a fallen power line, authorities said.

Featured image: Santiago under snow on July 15, 2017. Credit: Luke Epplin

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