Chile Wildfire: 51 Lives Lost, Govt Declares State Of Emergency

Emmanuel Saviour

Chile Wildfire: Chile is grappling with a catastrophic wildfire outbreak, leaving at least 51 dead, and fears are growing that the toll will climb higher.

President Gabriel Boric, addressing the nation, declared a state of emergency, emphasizing the expected rise in victims. “Given the conditions of the tragedy, the number of victims will surely increase in the coming hours,” he stated.

Coastal cities are shrouded in smoke, prompting evacuations in central regions. Military units are being deployed with all necessary resources, as the provinces of Marga Marga and Valparaíso are under a state of emergency. A curfew, enforced to aid emergency and logistical support, underscores the severity of the situation.

A scorching summer heatwave has intensified the crisis, with Santiago experiencing consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 33 degrees Celsius (91.4°F). Scientists link this extreme weather to climate change and the El Nino phenomenon, emphasizing the heightened risk of heatwaves and fires.

Interior Minister Carolina Tohá disclosed that 92 active fires have affected 43,000 hectares, with firefighters battling 29. The port city of Valparaíso faces a critical situation, with 372 residents missing, 1,100 homes damaged, and one fire consuming 6,800 hectares.

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In a tragic turn, at least six casualties occurred in hospitals where individuals were being treated for burns. A man has been detained in connection with the wildfires, with reports suggesting that a fire, ignited during welding work in Talca, spread to grasslands.

Emergency crews prioritize Valparaíso due to its proximity to urban areas. Mayor González Cortés expressed concern, stating, “The biggest concern is that some of the fires are in zones very close to urban areas, at the interface of urban areas, and therefore have a very high potential to affect people, homes and installations.”

As authorities work to confirm information from inaccessible areas, there are fears the death toll could rise. The unfolding tragedy illustrates the urgent need for coordinated efforts to combat the wildfires and protect affected communities.

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