At least 46 people have been killed as a result of intense forest fires that have been raging around a heavily populated area in central Chile, according to the president of Chile, who made the announcement on Saturday evening. Officials also stated that at least 1,100 dwellings have been burned.
As four big flames burn in the region of Valparaiso, where firefighters have failed to access the most endangered communities, President Gabriel Boric issued a warning in a nationally televised address that the death toll could worsen. The address was broadcast on television across the country.
In the early hours of Saturday, Minister Carolina Tohá reported that there were 92 forest fires burning in the central and southern regions of the country, which had seen temperatures that are significantly higher than average this week.
The fires that caused the most deaths were those that occurred in the Valparaíso district, where the authorities urged thousands of people to leave their houses safely.
During this time, inhabitants of communities that were further away from the fires were instructed to remain inside their homes. This was done to ensure that emergency vehicles such as fire engines, ambulances, and others could move more easily on the highways.
The hillside area of Villa Independencia, which is located on the eastern fringe of the town, was victimized by the destruction of numerous blocks of residential and commercial properties. On the streets, which were coated in ash, there were burned cars with broken windows that lined the roadways.
Rolando Fernández, one of the residents who lost his home, stated, “I’ve been here for 32 years, and I never imagined that something like this would happen.”
On Friday afternoon, he reported seeing the fire for the first time on a neighboring hill. Within fifteen minutes, the region was completely enveloped in flames and smoke, and everyone was forced to flee for their lives.
The fires were raging on hillsides that are difficult to access, including neighborhoods that were constructed in a dangerous manner on the outskirts of Viña del Mar districts.
Officials have claimed that the fire has caused power cuts, and Tohá has stated that in the Valparaíso district, four hospitals and three nursing homes for the elderly have been required to evacuate their residents. In addition, two bus terminals were destroyed by the fire, according to the minister of the interior.
This year, the El Niño weather pattern has been responsible for droughts and temperatures that are higher than typical along the western region of South America, which has led to an increase in the likelihood of forest fires occurring.
After several weeks of dry weather, flames broke out in Colombia in January, destroying more than 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) of forestland. These fires were caused by the dry weather.