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At Least 24 People Die in Forest Fires in Chile

Firefighters fight to extinguish the flames in dozens of forest fires in Chile, Sunday 5 February 2023. They are trying to control one of the worst natural disasters in the country for years with the death toll reaching at least 24 people with nearly 1000 people injured.

International aid began arriving Sunday from countries that have pledged resources, including planes and skilled firefighting teams, as the most intense fires ravaged forests and farmland around three areas near the South American country’s long Pacific coastline.

President Gabriel Boric issued an emergency declaration for the rural south of Biobio, Nuble and Araucania in a bid to speed recovery. On Sunday, speaking from the town of Puren in Araucania, Boric emphasized that his government will provide all the resources needed, as he strives to generate solidarity in the face of deadly forest fires.

“I have seen the resilience of our people, and it is that spirit that must guide us in this difficult time,” he said. “Together, we will come out of this going forward.”

The fires have consumed about 270,000 hectares, officials said Sunday, or the equivalent in size to the US state of Rhode Island.

A searing heat wave in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer has complicated efforts to extinguish the fires, as temperatures in some of the worst-affected areas have exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius).

Intense pockets of fire could be seen leaping from the forested hills around the coast near the town of Dichato just outside the town of Concepcion in the Biobio region on Saturday evening, as light from the blaze illuminated boats in the little harbour.

Thirteen of those killed – more than half the reported fire casualties – were from Biobio, which, like Nuble and Araucania, is home to extensive forests as well as farms that produce grapes and other fruit for sale.

About 260 fires are active across the arid region, interior ministry officials said Sunday, 25 of which were considered very dangerous. Nearly 1,500 people fled to shelters. At least 26 of the 970 injured were listed in serious condition at local hospitals.

Chilean officials are seeking international help to put out the fires, with new ones burning every day. Authorities say they are facilitating the arrival of aid from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal and Venezuela.

Some foreign aid has arrived. A military unit from Spain is on its way, officials said Sunday, adding that a Ten Tanker plane with a capacity of 36,000 liters of fire fighting water was planned to arrive Monday. Meanwhile, a special team of personnel and trucks from Argentina also arrived Sunday, as well as two military planes and about 300 volunteers from Mexico, according to Chile’s foreign ministry.

Source : Tempo.co