The death toll from the forest fires in Chile rose to 16

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The Government confirmed this Saturday the death of two people in the town of Purén. The flames have already destroyed more than 45,000 hectares in the center and south of the country

The death toll from the fires rose to 16 forestry in Chile

A resident tries to put out the fire during a forest fire in Santa Juana, near Concepcion, Chile, February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Juan Gonzalez

The Chilean government confirmed this Saturday the death of two people in a fire in the town of Purén, bringing the balance to 16 of deaths in the virulent disasters that have already destroyed more than 45,000 hectares in the center and south of the country.

“The preliminary data we have right now is 15 people died”, the Minister of the Interior, Carolina Tohá, said at a press conference.. Then another death was confirmed.

In addition to the two deaths in Purén, in the region of La Araucanía (700 kilometers to the south of Santiago), there are 10 deaths in Santa Juana, a town in the neighboring Biobío region that has been harshly hit by the flames and where no more victims are ruled out.

Friday afternoon two brigade members also diedafter the crash of the helicopter with which they were trying to extinguish a fire in the Galvarino commune, in La Araucanía.

The death toll from the forest fires in Chile rose to 16

A resident tries to put out the fire during a forest fire in Santa Juana, near Concepción, Chile, February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Juan González

Tohá indicated that the government decided to extend the State of Catastrophe to La Araucanía, thus joining Ñuble and Biobío, the three regions most affected and with intense agricultural and forestry activity.

The measure makes it possible, among other things, to deliver aid to those affected more expeditiously and mobilize resources.

The minister also stated that requests have been made international support to expedite the arrival of aircraft and brigades, mainly to Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Spain.

The death toll from forest fires in Chile rose to 16

A helicopter assists during a forest fire in Santa Juana, near Concepción, Chile, February 3, 2023. REUTERS /Juan Gonzalez

Unpublished heat wave

The fires coincide with a a long drought that has lasted for more than 13 years and an unprecedented heat wave in the south, with temperatures that could reach 40 degrees Celsius in southern areas in the next few hours.

“Difficult conditions are expected to continue in the following days,” warned Tohá.

The Meteorological Department reported this Saturday that The heat wave will last until next Wednesday and will affect 7 of the 16 regions of the country.

 The death toll from forest fires in Chile rose to 16

The fires coincide with a long drought that has lasted for more than 13 years and with an unprecedented heat wave in the south

The images are reminiscent of the wave of fires that hit southern Chile in 2017, the most serious to date and in which a dozen people died.

“We are becoming one of the territories most vulnerable to fires due to the advance of climate change in our territories. What seemed like an extreme situation three years ago, is getting better every year,” lamented the minister.

“We are a territory of extremely high risk given the changes brought by the climate change”, concluded Tohá.

(With information from EFE)

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