COPIAPO, Chile – President Michelle Bachelet said Friday she will remain in the zone of northern Chile devastated by flooding until the crisis eases.
Bachelet, who traveled to the area on Wednesday, did not mention a time period, but told reporters that authorities “are advancing toward normalizing the situation.”
Heavy rains and flooding this week have left at least seven people dead and 19 others missing in the regions of Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo.
After a meeting in Copiapo, capital of Atacama, of the Emergency Operations Committee to review measures adopted to confront the disaster, Bachelet presented a positive assessment of the progress so far.
Helicopters are being used to reach communities left cut off by the water, she said.
Hospitals in the area are getting back to normal, though authorities in the isolated town of Diego de Almagro have had to set up a makeshift infirmary in a school, the president – herself a physician – told the media.
The affected regions have received shipments of medication, including insulin and vaccines against hepatitis, tetanus and flu to help in managing public health once the emergency is over, Bachelet said.
She also justified the curfew that was imposed Thursday night in the Atacama region by noting that “while the population in general has behaved in an exemplary way, there were instances of people attempting to loot.”
Chile’s Onemi emergency management agency said some 6,200 people have been displaced by rain and floods, with 5,471 of them staying in shelters.