Bulgarian Antarctic Expeditions Stranded by Strike, Riots in Chile
Bulgaria's two scientific expeditions to Antarctica – one returning home, and the other taking over – have been stranded in the very south of Chile because of civil unrest caused by a strike.
The strike against expected 17% hike of natural gas prices in the southernmost Chilean port city Punta Arenas, 2 300 km south of capital Santiago, has led to riots in the last few days, and clashes between strikers and police in which at least 2 people were killed and 38 got wounded.
As a result of the strike, the Bulgarian expedition, which is returning from the Bulgarian Antarctica base on the Livingston Island is trapped in the city of Punta Arenas, while the Bulgarian expedition of scientists arriving to take over from them for the next few months in Antarctica is stranded on the Argentina-Chile border.
The returning Bulgarian expedition was transported from the island of Livingston, where the Antarctic bases of Bulgaria and Spain are located, to Punta Arenas on Saturday by a Spanish navy ship. The incoming Bulgarian expedition is now supposed to cross into Chile, and to sail off to Antarctica from Punta Arenas. Both expeditions have seven scientists each.
While the returning expedition has sufficient food supplies, the one stuck on the Argentina-Chile border might face a food shortage if the unrest in Punta Arenas continues, the scientists have told the private channel bTV.
The head of the incoming expedition, which will be the 19th Bulgarian expedition to Antarctica, Prof. Hristo Pimpirev has assured that the expedition will not return home as its work on Antarctica is bound to commitments to international research projects.
The Bulgarian ambassadors in Chile and Argentina are seeking to provide assistance to the stranded scientists.
Bulgaria's Ambassador in Chile Valeri Yotov has reacted with a note to the Chilean government together with the other EU ambassadors as thousands of tourists, many of them from the EU, have been stranded on both sides of the Chile-Argentina border because of the riots and strike. The strike in Punta Arenas is expected to continue until Monday.
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