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Chile declares snow 'catastrophe'

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Chilean officials have declared a "catastrophe" in eight southern districts where heavy snowfall over four days left thousands of people isolated.

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

Piñera described the polar front the worst the region has seen in 30 years, The Patagonia Times reported. Snow piled up over 9 feet in some areas.

Sub-zero temperatures froze pipes, leaving most of Lonquimay, a town of just over 10,000 population at 9,000 feet elevation, without water.

Fuel in some vehicles' gas tanks also froze, local media reported.

Men shovel snow off a house roof in Lonquimay, Chile, Thursday, July 21, 2011. Chile's government declared Lonquimay under emergency after a strong snowstorm hit the town. Snow has reached 2.3 meters high and around 16,000 people are isolated in the area according to authorities. (AP Photo/Carlos Succo)Carlos Succo / AP

Snow-covered roads prevented aid sent by regional authorities from reaching its destination. La Segunda reported 400 boxes were sent to Lonquimay but only 25 arrived.

"In four days we have had four months worth of snowfall,” said Regional Governor Miguel Mellado in an interview with Canal 13. “We’ve got a very difficult situation here."

The communities declared as part of the disaster area are Lonquimay, Curralehue, Melipeuco, Curacautín, Pucón, Cunco, Vilcún and Villarrica.

The worst may be over.

Precipitation was expected to end Thursday and daytime temperatures were expected to reach nearly 60 degrees by Saturday.