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Chile Declares Catastrophe After Heavy Snow in Auracania Region

Residents clear snow in Lonquimay, Araucania Region, located 730 kilometers south of Santiago, Chile, July 20, 2011

Chilean officials have declared a "catastrophe" in eight southern districts where heavy snowfall has left an estimated 6,500 people isolated.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said the declaration will free up more resources to aid those who need help in the mountainous Auracania region.

Days of bad weather have left some areas buried under nearly three meters of snow and without power. Officials say they have sent some 400 boxes of supplies to the affected villagers, but snow-covered roads are making it difficult to get the supplies to their destination.

Emergency crews have been working to clear the roadways. Some residents also say the situation has left them without cellphone service or radio communication.

More snow is forecast for the region.