Natural catastrophes slash Chile

Tuesday's quake left at least 11 killed and 200 injured, as a snowstorm left almost 3,000 trucks trapped in the border with Argentina

Chile is suffering a series of natural catastrophes that have caused great concern among its authorities and has created huge losses to its economy. Shortly after an unexpected blizzard killed 45 soldiers in the Andes Mountains last month, a 7.9-magnitude quake caused landslides and wrecked homes, killing at least 11 people and injuring 200, while a snowstorm has trapped no less than 2,500 trucks in the border with Argentina.

According to witnesses, the quake in the north of the country - Chile's top mining district - has also cut off power and burst water mains in the port cities of Arica, Iquique and Antofagasta. Chile's Emergency Bureau ONEMI said most of the quake's victims were killed in landslides. One victim was a nine-month-old baby.

Television images showed streets littered with giant rocks in Iquique and dozens of collapsed adobe homes in nearby towns. "Look, the church fell down, 15 houses are destroyed and 20 are uninhabitable. We've been out in the town square all night because it quaked all night. We don't have any food, water or power," said Mercedes Cruz, a resident of the town of Huavilla.

But while this South American Andean nation is trying to recover from Tuesday's tragedy, another natural phenomenon is creating enormous losses to its economy. The international highway that links Argentina and Chile through the Andean Mountains is currently blocked by 1,5 meters of snow.

The 5-day blizzard in the area has left lines of vehicles to both sides of the border. In the Argentine side, around 3,000 trucks are waiting to cross to Chile, but according to meteorologists, it will be impossible until next weeks, as the snow keeps on falling.

The Cristo Redentor road is the main connection between both countries and, therefore, most of the trade by land is now blocked.

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Author`s name Olga Savka