Bolivia appeals for help as snow strands thousands

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The worst snow storms in Bolivia in the last 20 years have left thousands of people stranded, as more snow is forecast for the coming days.

The Bolivian government has appealed for help from neighbouring countries.

It says it needs helicopters to drop aid to isolated communities and heavy machinery to clear the roads.

The snow took farmers and tourists by surprise in the usually dry highlands of Potosi - a vast area in the south-west of the country.

Farmers have lost their crops and more than 50,000 llamas and alpacas are without food, after their pastures were covered by a thick layer of snow.

Roads remain closed, and rescue efforts have been hampered by poor weather.

The Bolivian Civil Defence Department said that dropping aid to isolated communities and rescuing people stranded in freezing temperatures would be difficult without helicopters from other countries.

The government has only two helicopters.

The BBC's correspondent in La Paz, Mattia Cabitza, says that, giving the vastness and isolation of the territory affected, it will be very difficult to clear the roads before the next snowstorms arrive.

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