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Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Chile fears further floods
Floods in Venezuela
At least 30,000 died from mudslides in Venezuela's floods
By James Reynolds in Santiago

Heavy rains in central Chile have led the government to declare the region a catastrophe zone.

Thousands of people have been forced from their homes by the rains. The capital, Santiago, has also been seriously affected.

These have been the heaviest rains in Santiago for 20 years.

The Mapocho river - usually a trickle - has become a torrent.

Roads and houses have been flooded. Schools have closed. Thousands of people - mostly in poor areas - have been forced to leave their homes an stay in emergency shelters.

President Ricardo Lagos has postponed a trip to a summit in Colombia to deal with the situation.

The government has appealed for Chileans to give money to a special bank account set up to help those whose homes have been damaged.

Television and radio stations are running uninterrupted coverage of the situation.

Outside the capital, in central Chile, the situation is equally dramatic.

In the coastal city of Valparaiso, the port has been closed to small vessels, and the main road to Argentina across the Andes mountains has also been shut.

The authorities here say that the rains are expected to die down on Thursday.

They hope that life will return to normal over the next few days.

Heavy flooding which caused mudslides in Venezuela at the end of last year left at least 30,000 people dead.

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See also:

05 Jan 00 | Americas
Brazil floods kill 26
21 Dec 99 | Americas
Disaster - but was it natural?
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