Peru + 1 more

Deadly South America cold prompts emergency response

Low-income, rural populations in Peru and Bolivia are struggling to survive a cold front that has put parts of South America under a deadly freeze. With temperatures in some places plunging to a decade-long record of negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 20 degrees Celsius), frigid conditions have been blamed for 59 deaths in Peru and five in Bolivia. Hundreds of others are suffering from hypothermia, pneumonia and frostbite.
Red Cross societies in both countries have responded to the situation by providing the affected populations with winter clothes, blankets, food and health care, particularly to children and the elderly, who are most at risk.

Meanwhile in Bolivia, more than 12,000 people have been isolated by snow-covered roads, many of them without heat because snow also has coated the manure that provides their only source of fuel. The residents also lack adequate clothing, and have no recourse to take as their roofs collapse under the weight of the snow and their livestock and crops die in the cold.

At least 100 people are missing in the storms, and five have died from cold-related causes. Hundreds have been treated for hypothermia, frostbite and respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia. Twenty thousand homes were damaged in the snowstorm.

Bolivian Red Cross volunteers are delivering relief goods, providing first aid and transporting the sick and injured to the hospital.

"There is a threat of widespread starvation because the cold weather has wiped out much of the affected region's food source. The conditions have killed livestock and destroyed crops that many people depend on for survival," said Christine Strater of the American Red Cross. In Peru, 50 percent of the livestock have succumbed to the cold, and some 18,000 hectares of crops have died. In Bolivia, the conditions have killed 50,000 of the 120,000 animals.

The American Red Cross has reached out to assist its partner national societies by contributing a total of $35,000 to aid those affected by the current disaster in the two countries. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has allocated $55,233 to the response efforts in Peru and Bolivia. After emergency needs are met, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will assist with the countries' long-term recovery, possibly replenishing crops and livestock lost in the disaster.

While not as severely affected as their northern neighbors, Argentina and Chile have also been hit by the cold snap. In northwestern Argentina, snow storms accompanied by gusting winds have isolated hundreds of people. In Chile, 25,000 people have been affected, and authorities have reported one death from hypothermia.


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