Antarctic cold snap kills nine in Argentina

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A spell of extreme cold weather has brought ice and snow to much of Argentina, killing at least nine.

Most of the victims were homeless people in the capital Buenos Aires who died of hypothermia, a local non-governmental organisation said.

The cold front moving up from Antarctica has caused temperatures to plunge across the southern cone region of South America.

Deaths have also been reported in Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia.

"The wave of cold air from the polar region continues to affect all of Argentina's territory with intense frosts" Argentina's national meteorological service reported.

It recorded minimum temperatures of minus 14C in Patagonia and central Argentina and between 0C and 3C in the north.

Argentina has stepped up electricity imports from Brazil and put restrictions on the use of natural gas by industry to ensure the increased energy demand for domestic heating can be met.

The cold snap also hit Bolivia, where local media reported at least two deaths in the tropical region of Santa Cruz.

Bolivia's education ministry ordered schools to close until 21 July because of the cold.

Low temperatures have also affected Chile, southern Brazil, and eastern Peru.

The unusually cold winter weather in South America follows one of the coldest winters for years in many parts of the northern hemisphere.

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