In a major disaster, one of the largest in the history of Chile, as much as 26,000 hectares of land has already been scorched by raging wildfires.
The wildfires, which are concentrated in the southern and central regions of the country, have claimed the lives of at least 122 people, as per the official statements from Chilean authorities. Manuel Monsalven, a representative of the nation’s Ministry of the Interior, has confirmed that 32 victims have been identified so far. However, a number of people are still unaccounted for.
The country’s president, Gabriel Boric, has previously expressed concern that the death toll is likely to rise significantly in the foreseeable future.
The wildfires are particularly prevalent in the vicinity of the popular tourist destination of Valparaiso.
Efforts to put out the fires have been met with immense challenges. Persistent high temperatures of around 40 degrees and extremely dry conditions in the area have exacerbated the situation.
As reported by Chile’s emergency authorities, nearly 26,000 hectares of land were up in flames by Sunday.
President Boric has proclaimed a state of emergency in the affected areas and has called upon the government to ensure that those displaced and affected by the fires receive the necessary assistance to cope with the aftermath of the disaster. On Saturday, Boric undertook an aerial survey of the fire-ravaged areas.
Residents of the beach town of Vina del Mar have been severely affected by the wildfires. Local resident Rosana Avendano, in an interview with the news agency AFP, shared that her family lost everything to the fire.
Avendano’s husband had a narrow escape. She narrated that her husband was resting when he felt the intense heat of the fire and managed to flee the house in time. She was later able to establish contact with him.
The local botanical garden in Vina del Mar was not spared either and was completely destroyed in the fire. Lilian Rojas, who lives nearby, told the news agency that all the houses in the vicinity were obliterated by the fire.
President Boric, in a press conference, compared the severity of these wildfires to the devastating 2010 earthquake and tsunami, which resulted in approximately 500 casualties. He reiterated his earlier statement predicting a significant increase in the number of victims due to the ongoing wildfires.
As of now, approximately 1,400 firefighters and 1,300 military personnel, along with numerous volunteers, are engaged in combating the fires. Additionally, 31 helicopters and airplanes are being deployed in the firefighting operations.