VINA DEL MAR, Chile – A series of intense forest fires has ravaged central and southern regions of Chile, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. As of now, at least 19 people have been reported dead, with more than 1,000 homes destroyed.
Chile’s interior minister, Carolina Tohá, revealed that there are currently 92 forest fires in the central and southern parts of the country, where temperatures have been unusually high. The region of Valparaíso has been hit the hardest, with authorities urging people to stay indoors to allow emergency vehicles to navigate more easily.
The fires near the towns of Quilpué and Villa Alemana have already devoured 8,000 hectares (19,770 acres) since Friday. One of the fires is posing a threat to the coastal resort town of Viña del Mar, with several neighborhoods already experiencing severe damage.
In Villa Independencia, a hillside neighborhood on the outskirts of Viña del Mar, entire blocks of homes and businesses have been reduced to ashes, with burnt-out cars lining the streets. The devastation has left many residents in shock, with one person lamenting the loss of a lifetime’s worth of hard work.
Efforts to control the blazes are underway, with three shelters set up in the Valparaíso region and 19 helicopters and over 450 firefighters deployed. However, rescue teams are facing challenges in reaching the most affected areas due to the difficult, mountainous terrain. In addition to the loss of life and property, the fires have also caused blackouts, forced the evacuation of hospitals and nursing homes, and destroyed two bus terminals.
The severity of the fires has been exacerbated by the El Niño weather pattern, which has brought droughts and higher temperatures to the western part of South America. This has significantly increased the risk of forest fires, with neighboring countries also experiencing similar devastation in recent months.
As the affected communities grapple with the aftermath of this disaster, the focus remains on providing support, relief, and aid to those who have been impacted by the fires.