- Title: VARIOUS: Southern Hemisphere winter takes a toll on South American countries
- Date: 30th July 2009
- Summary: VARIOUS OF HIGHWAY SURROUNDED BY SNOW
- Embargoed: 14th August 2009 13:00
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes,Weather
- Reuters ID: LVAC9JL76Y4OVKC3WYH9IXEVCRSY
- Story Text: As the alarm continues to grow over global climate change, countries throughout South America are reporting particularly strong 2009 winters that are causing high levels of snow and fatalities.
The landlocked nation of Bolivia has seen temperatures reaching as low as minus 4 degrees celsius in recent days.
Snow has also been pelting the Bolivian Alteplano highland located in the western half of the country, specifically in and around the city of El Alto where temperatures were as low as 0 degrees Celsius.
El Alto, located at an altitude of 4,000 meters, is the second city of the La Paz department, after the Bolivian capital of La Paz.
Highways have been temporarily shut down around the El Alto International Airport, which is still operating.
The frigid winter has also complicated auto travel in the already poorly paved South American country, and the weekend saw a spate of fatal auto accidents.
The worst left 21 dead after a bus toppled over on a highway in southern Bolivia.
The bodies were brought to the city of Tarija, which borders Argentina.
Snow patterns in high altitude Bolivia are of particular interest to scientists specializing in climate, given the rare occurrence of snow between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
For their part, Bolivians look on high snow levels as a prelude to a plentiful harvest.
One resident of El Alto spoke to Reuters about this silver lining in the cloud of snow.
"The belief is that you have a good harvest in August after large snow falls. This year, snow has arrived early, and so we believe there will be a very good harvest," said Feliz Pinto, a local of El Alto.
Also located on the Andes highlands, the South American country of Peru was reporting on Monday (July 27) that the winter has claimed the lives of 29 minors below the age of five thus far.
The toll represents a 40% uptick in comparison to the same period last year.
Temperatures have been clocked in as low as 20 degrees below zero in sites like Canchis, a province in the department of Cusco.
Eleven of the country's 24 departments have declared a state of emergency in the wake of the hard winter.
The Peruvian Health Ministry has already been forced to attend to some 60,000 cases of heavy breathing problems this winter.
Cusco residents took time to explain the toll the winter is taking on their lives.
"The cold is just beginning, from the month of June through October there it will be very cold. Our cattle has already begun to start dying off," said Flora Mendoza, a landowner in the Cusco township of Phinaya.
To help the 350 families of Phinaya, which is located 5,200 metres above the sea, the non-government organisation of Solaris Peru sent in 20 tonnes of packages of heavily lined clothing and electric blankets.
And in Argentina, the austral winter has cut off the country's southernmost city, Ushuaia, popularly known as the "end of the world".
The Patagonian city, often used as a send-off point for excursions to Antarctica, is no stranger to heavy snow, but was still reporting its worst downfall in five years.
Accumulation was being reported as ranging between 20 and 40 centimetres, but was measured as high as 70 cms in some local areas, according to the Argentine media.
A cleanup operation is expected to last through Wednesday.
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