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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 05:43 GMT 06:43 UK
Chilean troops in 'snow tsunami'
The Andes mountains from the air
The forbidding Andes mountains run the entire length of Chile
Chile's army is continuing its search for an entire company of soldiers missing after a fierce snowstorm in the Andes mountains.

Five soldiers died of hypothermia and 65 were still missing after a "tsunami of snow" struck during an exercise on Thursday, Col Carlos Mezano said.

He said 30 members of the original group of 95 had been found alive.

The company went missing in the Los Barros range in southern Chile, close to the Argentine border.

A total of 433 troops were hit by the unexpected blizzard.

However, Col Mezano said the numbers would probably be changing "because of the difficulties we are having with communications".

He said rescue teams were heading towards the Antuco volcano, about 360 miles (600km) south-east of the capital, Santiago.

Discipline crucial

The missing troops included soldiers from all ranks, army chief Gen Juan Emilio Cheyre said earlier.

"A unit of this type, surprised by a tsunami of snow, is trained to stop, so it is possible that they are all camping," Gen Cheyre said.

"I do not want to raise false hopes. This is a unexpected situation, but to me a unit offers more hope than scattered soldiers."

The five soldiers confirmed to have died had not yet been identified, Gen Cheyre said.

Of the 433 troops on exercise, 47 were effectively refugees in the "white zone", with a further 114 in the Los Bajos area.

Some 172 troops at the nearby city of Los Angeles were the only ones to be positively identified, Gen Cheyre said.


SEE ALSO:
Foreign climbers die in Andes
23 Jul 03 |  Americas
Country profile: Chile
26 Mar 05 |  Country profiles


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