(Recasts, adds finance minister, analysts, background)
By Anthony Esposito
SANTIAGO, May 5 (Reuters) - Chile’s economy grew at a modest pace in March, as a gradual rebound in the top copper producer was weighed down by devastating floods and mudslides in its northern region, central bank data showed on Tuesday.
The IMACEC economic activity index, which encompasses about 90 percent of the economy tallied in gross domestic product figures, rose 1.6 percent in March from the same month a year ago. That was above the forecast for a 1.1. percent increase.
“The result reflected mainly the higher value added from services, which was partly offset by the drop in mining and manufacturing activity,” the central bank said.
Unusually heavy rains in late March wiped out roads and bridges, forced the temporary closure of many mines, and killed 31 people. Another 20 are still missing.
“Without this catastrophe, growth in March would have been above 2 percent, that is, above growth in February,” Finance Minister Alberto Arenas said.
The disaster’s impact likely will still be felt in the mining and construction sectors in April, Arenas said.
In comparison with February, economic activity decreased a seasonally adjusted 0.3 pct.
The “weather-related weakness will prove short-lived and, thanks to a strong performance in January and February, the economy probably still grew at a faster pace in Q1 than in Q4 of last year,” said Edward Glossop, emerging markets economist with Capital Economics in London.
Gross domestic product data for the first quarter will be published on May 18. (Additional reporting by Felipe Iturrieta; Editing by Paul Simao)