Drizzle Causes Emergency in Chilean Desert City

In one of the driest regions on earth, even a drizzle can cause an emergency.

Less than 100th of an inch (about 0.2 millimeters) of rain fell
on the Chilean port city of Iquique Monday afternoon, accompanied
by moderate winds of about 10 mph (17 kph), according to the
country's weather service. That was enough to knock out power to
several neighborhoods and to damage the roofs of 4,000 precarious
dwellings, Gov. Miguel Silva said Tuesday.

Schools were closed Tuesday so that officials can repair the
damage. There were no reports anyone was injured.

The city of 170,000 people in northern Chile is in the heart of
the barren Atacama Desert, squeezed between the Andes and the
Pacific Ocean. It averages about 0.02 inch (0.6 millimeter) of rain
a year, according to University of Chile meteorologists.

"Roofs in this region are to protect people from the sun, not
from rain," Silva said.

With little water to worry about, many of Iquique's poor live in
homes covered with a bits of wood, plaster or even cardboard that
are easily damaged by a little rain and wind. Many have no slope to
let water run off.


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