Image: Light rain in Iquique
Cristian Vivero  /  AP
A resident sleeps on a bench after rain fell in the port city of Iquique, Chile, on Monday.
updated 7/21/2009 5:13:53 PM ET 2009-07-21T21:13:53

In one of the driest regions on earth, even drizzle and a bit of wind can cause an emergency.

Less than 100th of an inch of rain fell on the Chilean port city of Iquique Monday afternoon, accompanied by moderate winds of about 10 mph, according to the country's weather service. That was enough to knock out power to several neighborhoods and to damage the roofs of 4,000 precarious dwellings, Gov. Miguel Silva said Tuesday.

Schools were closed Tuesday so that officials can repair the damage. There were no reports anyone was injured.

The city of 170,000 people in northern Chile is in the heart of the barren Atacama Desert, squeezed between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. It averages about 0.02 inch of rain a year, according to University of Chile meteorologists.

"Roofs in this region are to protect people from the sun, not from rain," Silva said.

With little water to worry about, many of Iquique's poor live in homes covered with a bits of wood, plaster or even cardboard that are easily damaged by a little rain and wind. Many have no slope to let water run off.

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