July 30, 2001

Chilean storm kills two

                 SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) -- Torrential rain and winds pounded central
                 and southern Chile, killing at least two people and closing the main
                 commercial border crossing with Argentina, local officials said Monday.

                 Copper mines in the affected regions reported no damage or interruption to
                 operations. Chile, the world's No. 1 copper producer, extracts most of the
                 mineral in the northern Atacama Desert, which was untouched by the storm.

                 The central port of Valparaiso, which ships most of the country's fresh fruit
                 exports, has been closed since Saturday morning, while the adjacent San
                 Antonio port was operating normally Monday, a port spokesman said.

                 Other small ports in southern Chile were reported closed.

                 The main border crossing between Chile and Argentina for commercial traffic,
                 Los Libertadores, which is high in the Andes, was closed due to snow blocking
                 the road, the National Emergency Office said.

                 The storm, which the emergency office called "very unusual," caused damage
                 overnight Sunday mostly in the capital, Santiago, and the central coastal region.

                 "Two people in Valparaiso were killed because their simple brick houses, located
                 on hillsides where there were numerous landslides, collapsed," the emergency
                 office said in a report.

                 Gales toppled trees, caused power blackouts in several neighborhoods and blew
                 off rooftops in Santiago early Monday.

                 An estimated 500 people were forced to flee their flooded homes. Television
                 images showed Chileans wading through hip-high water on the streets and
                 mopping out flooded homes.

                 A similar storm hit the same regions of Chile earlier this month.

                   Copyright 2001 Reuters