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Chile Deluges, Floods Kill 9

June 4, 2002

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SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Three days of torrential rains have caused widespread flooding in central and southern Chile, killing at least nine people and forcing 50,000 people from their homes, authorities said Monday.

``We have a difficult night ahead,″ President Ricardo Lagos said in a nationwide broadcast.

Nearly five inches of rain fell between Saturday and Monday night in this capital city of 5.5 million people, flooding numerous streets, damaging and collapsing homes and cutting electric power to 90,000 homes, officials said.

After touring the most affected neighborhoods in Santiago, Lagos urged people to stay home. Classes were suspended at schools and universities and work shifts were shortened at many government and private offices.

Authorities said around 50,000 people were evacuated from their flooded homes, with police using inflatable boats to rescue many of them.

Some evacuees stayed with relatives or friends but 29,000 had to be sheltered at public schools or other government facilities, said Alberto Maturana, head of the government’s Emergency Bureau.

The nine dead either drowned or were buried by collapsing structures in Santiago, the neighboring port city of Valparaiso and in southern Chile, Maturana said.

Meteorologists forecast the rains to continue through Wednesday.

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