On 17 April heavy rainfall pounded central Chile and left an estimated four million people without drinking water and one dead.
Landslides wreaked havoc, rivers burst their banks and the world’s largest underground copper mine had to be closed.
A landslide in the San Jose de Maipo valley, a mountainous region situated southeast of the capital city, Santiago, killed a woman. The head of Chile’s Onemi emergency office, Richard Toro, has also revealed that special police forces are currently searching for a further four people in the same area.
Television images displayed streets in Providencia, an upscale neighbourhood of Santiago, overrun by flood waters after the Mapocho River breached its banks. Tap water production decreased 35% below normal levels whilst municipal authorities activated an emergency plan that included accessing 45 backup water sources and mobilising more than 60 water trucks.
The heavy rain flooded parts of the gigantic El Teniente mine, consequently leading
the state-owned copper company Codelco to halt operations for at least three days. The mine, which is located in the foothills of the Andes 150km south of Santiago, has been closed in order to let engineers and crews clean up landslides and to divert streams that have “caused damage” to machinery.
Reportedly, suspension at the century-old El Teniente mine is likely to lead to the loss of 5,000 tonnes of copper. Global miner Anglo American Plc. suspended mining activities at its flagship Los Broncos copper mine and at the smaller El Soldado deposit, for security reasons.
Chile is the world’s largest copper producer, producing about one-third of global output.