July 21, 2009
Downpours that began on Monday in the province of Iquique—located in Chile’s extreme-north desert region of Tarapacá—has damaged 4,800 homes, closed schools for 48 hours and led to power outages affecting more than 20,000 people. The storms eventually dumped 15-times the average monthly rainfall for the month of July and prompted Chile’s national emergency office to mobilize resources for roof repairs and the prevention of landslides.
While Chile’s government has thus far viewed this rain event simply as an “unusual climatic phenomenon,” climate change experts see an overall trend toward extreme weather events and changing rainfall patterns in Latin America, displacing hundreds of thousands of people in recent years. Sasha Chavkin in a policy update for the newly released Americas Quarterly looks at preparations that Chile and other countries have taken to be ready for extreme future rainfall and drought events, focusing on work to develop procedures for declaring states of emergency and for responding to disasters.