Record low temperatures, hovering around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius) for the last two weeks, have killed more than 100 people and hundreds more cattle and other livestock, causing an agricultural emergency in rural areas of the Southern Cone. The cold snap is gripping Argentina, southern Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, and Bolivia with states of emergency being declared across the region.
Hypothermia has led to many of the deaths, especially among the homeless, as has carbon monoxide poisoning and fires due to faulty heaters.
Governments are stepping up efforts to provide services and shelter for affected individuals. Bolivia’s Ministry of Education suspended school on Monday for a week and a half to avoid contagion of flu, pneumonia and other contagious diseases, while the Chilean government converted the Estadio Victor Jara into a refuge for Santiago’s residents.
But the weather is also affecting governments’ ability to respond. In addition to treacherous conditions on roads and frequent blackouts, several regional airports were closed including Aeroparque in Buenos Aires, stranding hundreds of Argentines and tourists. Meteorologists are estimating that this cold front may last well into August.