SANTIAGO – The Chilean government on Tuesday raised to 18 the death toll following heavy rains and floods in northern Chile which have left at least a further 49 people missing.
Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo updated the figures at the headquarters of the National Office of Emergency.
“We want to be very emphatic: the information provided is based on official reports of the Legal Medical Service, Investigations Police and Carabineers of Chile,” said Peñaillilo, whose figures are lower than those released elsewhere.
On Monday Raul Bustos, the national head of Urban Search and Rescue, a unit of the Chilean Firefighters, informed local authorities that 89 people are missing from the town of Chañaral, one of the areas worst hit by the catastrophe, sparking controversy.
The Deputy Interior Secretary Mahmud Aleuy has urged people to ignore rumors about the number of deaths.
On Monday, Peñailillo said that 27,413 people have so far been registered as displaced, of whom 3,490 have been sheltered.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said Monday that the armed forces will on Tuesday begin distributing humanitarian aid that began arriving in affected areas on the weekend.
Japan, China, Mexico and Bolivia are providing aid to Chile in response to the effects of the floods.
Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz said that Venezuela will also provide aid.
The United States has committed $100,000 to the Caritas Foundation in Chile to assist with its emergency program.