Chile floods death toll rises to 17 as clean-up begins

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image copyrightEPA
image captionMany families have lost their homes in the northern Atacama region

Officials in Chile said 17 people were killed and 20 were still missing after flash floods devastated the Atacama region in the north of the country last week.

The rains, which started on Tuesday, were the worst in 80 years to fall in the region, one of the driest on Earth.

Almost 11,000 people have been affected and more than 4,500 are in shelters.

Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said entire towns had been left without drinking water.

image copyrightEPA
image captionMud has covered whole neighbourhoods in towns such as Diego de Almagro in northern Chile
image copyrightAFP
image captionThe flooding was triggered by heavy rains in the Andes, which caused rivers such as the Copiapo to overflow
image copyrightAFP
image captionThe streets of Copiapo turned into raging torrents after the heaviest rains in 80 years
image copyrightAFP
image captionAerial pictures released by the Chilean Air Force reveal the extent of the flooding

"We as a country will have to put a lot of effort in to get out of this situation," Mr Penailillo said.

Rivers burst their banks after heavy rains in the Andes sent floodwater down into the valleys and towns below.

The desert town of Chanaral was among the hardest hit with rivers of mud covering many of its streets.

In Tierra Amarilla, emergency workers rescued 13 miners who had been cut off in a remote mining camp for five days.

The search for 20 people still missing continues.

Among the thousands who lost their home is Victor Zamora, one of the Chilean miners who was trapped underground for 69 days in 2010.

He told local media that he had lost everything.

"It's a tragedy," he said.

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