Chile Issues Health Alert Over Trash Pile-Up

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A man looks for objects to recycle and sell at a rubbish dump in Santiago, on June 12, 2013. Chile stands on top of Latin American countries in waste generation, with 6,5 tons a year of which only 10 percent is recycled. AFP PHOTO/MARTIN BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images) | Getty

SANTIAGO, Chile -- SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile's government is issuing a health alert for the port of Valparaiso, where thousands of tons of trash have been piling up for nearly three weeks amid a strike by garbage collectors.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich said Thursday that the measure seeks to protect residents of Valparaiso from a strike "that carries huge health risks."

The work stoppage began on Oct. 16, and the government began negotiations two weeks later. By that time, the snaking streets and steep hills of Valparaiso had become clogged with trash.

The strike has spread and is now reaching most of Chile's municipalities.

Workers are demanding a wage increase. The government says it can only come to an agreement after the 2014 budget is approved and Nov. 17 presidential elections are held.

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Chile Issues Health Alert Over Trash