Sudden snowfall triggers Bolivian crisis

Tuesday 12th Jul 2011 by theWeather club

Bolivian President Evo Morales is considering declaring a state of emergency in the region of Potosi after the worst snow in two decades has brought chaos to the region. The move would allow him to mobilise the National Guard and sections of the army to help thousands of people who are struggling in the freezing conditions. Some 7,000 people -mainly farming families- are in need of help, according to Bolivian officials. The snow has hit the remote highlands of Potosi, and on Sunday the authorities had to order the rescue of a family of Dutch tourists stranded near the border with Chile due to the heavy snowfall.

Bolivia's central government has already sent food, supplies and medicine to the area, but has asked for help from neighbouring countries. President Morales says the country needs helicopters to help drop aid to isolated communities and heavy machinery to clear the roads. The snow took farmers and tourists completely by surprise in the usually dry highlands, a vast area in the south-west of the country.  Farmers have lost their crops and more than 40,000 llamas and alpacas are without food, after their pastures were covered by a thick layer of snow. Roads remain closed, and rescue efforts have been hampered by poor weather. The Bolivian Civil Defence Department said that dropping aid to isolated communities and rescuing people stranded in freezing temperatures would be difficult without helicopters from other countries, as Bolivia only has two of its own. However given the vastness and isolation of the region, even with outside help the authorities are going to struggle to complete the roads before more snowstorms hit the region.