Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

More than 64 dead in Chile fires

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In Quilpué, a Chilean town of 128,000 inhabitants, it is desolation.

Agence France-Presse

Fires ravaging the Valparaiso region in central Chile have killed at least 64 people, and that figure “will increase considerably,” President Gabriel Boric announced on Sunday.

Completely devastated residential areas, charred cars, tens of thousands of hectares of forest reduced to ashes: for the third day in a row, firefighters continue to fight dozens of fires in the central and southern Chile.

I can unfortunately confirm that there are 64 deaths. This figure will increase: we know that it will increase considerably, said Gabriel Boric during a trip to Quilpué, a town located on the outskirts of Viña del Mar, in the Valparaiso region. /p>

Thousands of residents were stranded there for several hours on Friday as they tried to flee by car.

This is the biggest tragedy we have seen since the 2010 earthquake.

A quote from Gabriel Boric, President of Chile

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Gabriel Boric, president of Chile. (Archive photo)

He was referring to the 8.8 magnitude earthquake which was followed by a tsunami on February 27, 2010 and which left more than 500 dead.

Firefighters were still fighting 34 fires on Sunday morning and had managed to bring 43 under control, according to the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service (SENAPRED).

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Lilian Rojas, a 67-year-old retiree, lived near the garden botany in the seaside resort of Viña del Mar, one of the most affected areas. There's not a single house left here, she says amid the rubble and ashes.

She says the fire surprised them within minutes. I went outside to look and people were already running. I left my house, closed the door and left, describes the retiree, showing her pink dress: It's the only thing I have left.

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Rodrigo Pulgar, a driver, lost his home in El Olivar, in the hills of Valparaiso.

It was hell. I tried to help my neighbor turn off his car. My house was starting to burn from behind. It was a rain of ashes.

A quote from Rodrigo Pulgar, an affected citizen

The weather conditions of the last few hours seem more favorable, said the Minister of the Interior, Carolina Toha, describing a phenomenon typical of the Pacific coast which produces lots of clouds, high humidity and therefore lower temperatures.

Current conditions are more conducive to victim care and control fires, she added.

The Las Tablas fire, the largest in the Valparaiso region, is still active and covers a perimeter of 80 km, Ms. Toha said.< /p>Open in full screen mode

In Quilpué, in central Chile, several families lost everything.

Across the region, popular for its beaches and its wine production, 17 fire brigades as well as 1,300 soldiers and civilian volunteers were deployed to fight the flames and help destitute residents.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In Rome, after the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis called on Sunday to pray for the dead and injured in the devastating fires in Chile.

The head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell announced on the X network that the European Union is ready to help in these difficult times, saying he believes that these devastating fires […] remind us of the devastation drought and climate.

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Josep Borrell, head of diplomacy of the European Union. (File photo)

Since Wednesday, the temperature has been close to 40 degrees in central Chile and the capital, Santiago.

This heatwave which results from the El Niño climatic phenomenon is currently affecting the southern cone of Latin America in the middle of summer, causing forest fires aggravated by global warming. After Chile and Colombia, the heat wave threatens Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil over the coming days.

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