As many as 46 people have been killed in forest fires raging in Chile, President Gabriel Boric said on Saturday. He added that the number of victims is likely to rise, NBC News reported.
Chilean Interior Minister Carolina Toha, in a press conference, said 92 active fires are burning in Chile, affecting more than 43,000 hectares. Toha added that more than 1,100 homes have already been impacted.
Boric, in his virtual address, acknowledged the loss of lives and homes and promised Chileans that the government was actively working to provide resources.
The president said, “I know that it is a very difficult time to lose the house that was built with so many years of sacrifice. Losing a family member, a loved one, is a heartbreak impossible to measure, but rest assured that our government is deployed with all the human, technical and budgetary resources.”
The fires triggered evacuations in several regions of central Chile.
In February 2023, fires in the country swept through more than 400,000 hectares and killed more than 22 people.
Though this year’s fires have not spread as widely, Toha said they are “multiplying rapidly” and are spreading closer to urban areas, so the potential to affect more people and structures is “very high”, as per NBC News.
The fires broke out as Chile faces a heat wave that has affected other Latin American countries as well.
Boric declared a state of emergency, and red alerts were issued for at-risk areas. Chile’s Education Ministry has established 20 shelters in the regions of Valparaiso, O’Higgins and Los Lagos.
Boric also flew over the region to assess the impacted areas. “We have worked to have the greatest resources in our history to face the wildfire season and deploy them from day one to prevent (forest fires) and help people,” he said, as per NBC News.
Nineteen helicopters and more than 450 firefighters have been brought into the area to combat the blazes. Additionally, all mass commercial events in Valparaiso were suspended–including sporting, recreational and cultural events–to focus efforts on the fires.
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