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Chilean army recruits missing

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Chilean Army acknowledges 65 recruits are missing in the Andes from a training exercise that was hit by severe snow storm. Colonel Carlos Mezano also reports 5 bodies have been recovered so far, apparently all had died from hypothermia.

433 Soldiers of the Regiment "Los Ángeles" went missing Thursday on the Los Barros range in southern central Chile, close to Argentine border, approximately 600 km southeast of the capital of Santiago. 316 recruits completed the exercise and are reported to be safe. 47 are reported safe, though incommunicado, in a high mountain refuge. The remaining 65 are still missing.

General Juan Emilio Cheyre, Chief Commander of the Army declared, "A unit of this type, surprised by a tsunami of snow, is trained to stop, so it is possible that they are all camping [...] I do not want to raise false hopes. This is a unexpected situation, but to me a unit offers more hope than scattered soldiers."

Rescue efforts have encountered trouble due to severe bad weather. A 'no fly zone' has been established in the Andes region. The Army and the media are avoiding, for now, speculation over the number of possibly dead soldiers, but the general mood of the families is pessimistic and allegations of neglect by Army officials have started to arise.

Most of the soldiers are men from the local area, from 18 to 19 years old.