Home » Many dead after forest fires – Chile declares national mourning

Many dead after forest fires – Chile declares national mourning

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Many dead after forest fires – Chile declares national mourning

As of: February 5, 2024 11:22 a.m

Forest fires occur again and again in Chile. But now the government is faced with an exceptional situation: more than 100 victims have now been reported. A national mourning is planned.

Chile is still unable to give the all-clear because of the forest fires in the country. President Gabriel Boric announced two days of national mourning in honor of those who died. According to the Chilean authorities, the number rose to at least 112 – but more victims are expected. “We know that this number will increase significantly,” said Boric during a visit to the disaster area in the Valparaíso region on the Pacific coast. More than 300 people were missing.

The forestry authority recently registered 180 fires across the country covering a total area of ​​more than 28,000 hectares. Almost 120 of the fires are therefore under control. Thousands of houses were damaged or destroyed, more than 3,000 in the Valparaíso region alone, said Interior Minister Carolina Tohá. “This is the worst tragedy our country has experienced since the 2010 earthquake,” said President Boric. At that time, more than 520 people were killed.

Boric wrote on

Military units are to be increased

On Friday, President Boric had already declared a state of emergency in the affected areas due to the disaster in order to be able to mobilize all the necessary resources. He has now instructed the Ministry of Defense to deploy more military units. A curfew was imposed for some communities to make fire-fighting and rescue work easier.

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The region west of the capital Santiago is most affected by the fires. A fire near the coastal towns of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar has spread to an area of ​​around 11,000 hectares, it said. In Viña del Mar, a botanical garden was destroyed by the flames.

“Serious information” for arson

It is being investigated whether the fires may have been set intentionally, said President Boric. He announced an investigation, “although it is difficult to imagine who caused such tragedy and so much pain.”

According to the Interior Minister, the government had “serious information” about the fire near Valparaíso that it was started intentionally. Further south in the Maule region, a person was arrested for causing a fire while working with a welding machine.

Suspected to be related to El Niño

In summer in the southern hemisphere, serious forest fires occur again and again in Chile. Last year, more than 425,000 hectares of land burned in the center and south of Chile – roughly eight times the area of ​​Lake Constance. At least 26 people were killed.

Several regions in Chile are currently affected by a heat wave. Scientists attribute much of the heat to the cyclical El Niño weather phenomenon that is warming the Pacific Ocean.

Anne Herrberg, ARD Rio de Janeiro, tagesschau, February 5th, 2024 6:35 a.m

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