Devastating Chile Storms Transform Atacama Desert Into Enchanting, Pink Landscape

Lead Photo: EPA/Mario Ruiz
EPA/Mario Ruiz
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With mudslides, property damage, and almost 30 deaths, this year’s torrential and unusual storms in Chile’s Atacama Desert brought devastation and displacement to many. August saw as much as three years worth of rain fall in 12 hours, and a March storm was even more severe to an area that is typically one of the driest in the world. As a result, the Atacama Desert’s barren landscape has been transformed by 200 native species of plants.

“The Atacama region was punished, but also blessed by the phenomenon of a flourishing desert, something that happens only after the rains, this time brought about by El Niño and climate change,” Daniel Diaz, National Tourism Service director in Atacama, told EFE. “The intensity of blooms this year has no precedent. And the fact that it has happened twice in a same year has never been recorded in the country’s history. We are surprised.”

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Though the area is still feeling the effects of the storms, the desert’s new pink coat has been attracting tourists, translating to a boost to the economy. The area is expecting 20,000 tourists to drop in until November when the desert will once again change.

If you want to learn more about this “small brown patch”, check out Patricio Guzmán’s poetic reflection of the desert in Nostalgia de la luz on Netflix.