An outbreak of exceptionally cold and snowy weather has hit parts of South America, resulting in at least a dozen deaths.

The arrival of the snow on an Antarctic cold front last week was accompanied by extremely cold conditions, with temperatures as low as Minus 19C, which have persisted ever since.  Even Chile’s Atacama desert, one of the world’s driest, did not escape, receiving its heaviest snowfall in 30 years.

Peru seems to have been worst hit, with the heaviest snow in a decade resulting in the deaths of up to 30,000 farm animals, including llamas, alpacas, cattle and sheep.

Bales of hay and vitamin shots have been supplied to farmers to help in the fight to keep surviving animals alive.

Tens of thousands of people have been cut off by the snow and several deaths have been reported, some as the result of homes collapsing because of the weight of accumulated snow.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala visited some of the worst affected areas as emergency relief workers distributed blankets and medical supplies.

It is thought that the snowfall may have encouraged the eruption of the Ubinas volcano, 70 kilometres from the southern city of Arequipa, for the first time since 2009. The volcano has erupted five times over the last few days, possibly as the result of snow coming into contact with hot volcanic material.

Bolivia has also been badly affected by the icy blast which has killed four people.  Drifting snow has prevented supplies getting to the mines in the province of Inquisivi, resulting in a suspension of mining operations.

Source: Al Jazeera