Monday, March 27, 2023
HomeWorldChile declares state of catastrophe after forest fires kill 13

Chile declares state of catastrophe after forest fires kill 13


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The Chilean government declared a state of catastrophe this Friday (3) after the death of at least 13 people in forest fires that hit the central-southern region of the country. Approximately 40,000 hectares have already been burned, and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

Authorities estimate nearly 200 active fires amid the strong heat wave hitting the country. At least 12 people were injured. Faced with the tragedy, the Minister of the Interior, Carolina Toha, said she expected help from the governments and companies of Brazil and Argentina.

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Most of the deaths — 11 people, including a firefighter — were recorded in the city of Santa Juana, in Biobio, a region located about 500 kilometers south of the capital Santiago. The government declared a state of catastrophe in the region and ordered the deployment of soldiers and resources to fight the flames.

A helicopter that had been hired by the National Forestry Corporation crashed in the region of La Araucania, killing two other people. The duo acted in support of emergency teams.

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“Conditions in the coming days will remain risky,” said Minister Toha. According to her, around 40 fires are still out of control and a fleet of 63 aircraft has been made available for reinforcement and firefighting.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric interrupted his summer vacation and traveled to Nuble and Biobio, which together have a population of nearly 2 million people.

“My role as president is to ensure that all resources are available for the emergency and for people to feel that they are not alone,” Boric said. He also raised suspicions that the fires may have been intentionally started.

Some families sought refuge in shelters, according to the Chilean disaster agency Senapred. The flames disrupted traffic on highways and several settlements were evacuated.

Weather forecasts this Friday indicated temperatures above 38ºC in the capital of Nuble, Chillan, with strong winds that threatened the spread of the flames.

The situation, far from being under control, is reminiscent of the catastrophe that occurred in the region in 2017, when 11 died and around 6,000 were left homeless in the fires that burned more than 450,000 hectares and destroyed around 1,500 homes. As in that year, fires started in agricultural and forest areas and progressed to threaten and destroy populated areas.

The declaration of a state of catastrophe allows the provision of additional resources for the emergency situation and help of those affected, in addition to allowing the use of military forces.

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