| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

Firefighters battle dozens of wildfires in Chile, death toll at 22

A blistering summer weather complicated efforts to contain fires that have so far killed at least 22 lives, prompting the government to extend an emergency decree to another region on Saturday due to the dozens of wildfires raging throughout Chile.

The La Araucania region, which lies south of the previously declared Biobio and nearby Nuble regions and is situated close to the country’s long Pacific coastline, is now covered by the interior ministry’s emergency declaration. There are lots of farms and forests in the three regions.

On Friday, an emergency-support helicopter in La Araucania crashed, killing its pilot and a mechanic, according to officials.

Authorities reported that 11 of the victims, or half of the casualties reported so far, died in the town of Santa Juana in Biobio, located some 310 miles (500 km) south of capital Santiago.

Since late last week, helicopters have dropped fire retardant over raging fires amid billowing clouds of smoke that obstructed roads, while firefighters and local residents alike sought to contain the flames against the backdrop of a hazy, orange-tinted sky.

The orders allow for the deployment of soldiers and additional resources to deal with the natural disaster.

Some 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres) have been torched by the fires, according to official data released late Friday, an area larger than the U.S. city of Philadelphia.

National forestry agency CONAF reported on Saturday that 80 of 231 total wildfires are being actively battled, while 151 of them are under control.

About a couple dozen fires have been designated at the red alert level.

  • Reuters