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Avalanches leave dozens stranded in Chile mountain towns

By Thomson Reuters Jun 24, 2024 | 3:12 PM

By Jorge Vega and Nicolas Cortes

Cajon del Maipo, CHILE (Reuters) – Dozens of people were stranded after avalanches blanketed mountain towns east of Chile’s capital Santiago and blocked roads, according to authorities.

Heavy rain and snowstorms from the last few days have left large piles of snow throughout the province of Maipo, in central Chile.

Two small towns in the Cajon del Maipo mountain range have been cut off as well as a ski center, due to road closures caused by snow slides, police and provincial government authorities said.

“We are doing everything possible to reach them and take them to a safe area,” said Alejandra Cortes, a federal government delegate to Cordillera province.

She added that in the next few days, authorities will attempt to set off a controlled avalanche to clear snow if it does not occur naturally first.

At Lagunillas Ski Center, 33 people were trapped, including eight children, Lieutenant Colonel Bernardo Leiva of Chile’s national police said.

“No people were injured (at the ski resort), and food has been brought to them,” he said.

A second avalanche blocked an access road in the mountains, leaving nine people trapped in the town of Banos Morales and 20 stuck in Lo Valdes, according to Cortes’ office.

Both towns are awaiting snow plows to clear roads, where 10 meters (33 feet) of snow built up after the avalanche.

More rain and possibly snow are expected through Tuesday.

(Reporting by Jorge Vega; Writing by Aida Pelaez-Fernandez; Editing by Kylie Mandry and Rod Nickel)