SANTIAGO: Authorities in Chile declared a state of disaster in several central-southern districts Friday after a severe heat wave ignited forest fires that killed at least 13 people.
Since the fires began on Wednesday, more than 100 homes have been burnt, and 47,000 hectares of forest have been devastated.
“We have to announce that there are 13 deaths in total, 11 in the Santa Juana municipality,” head of the Senaprad national disaster agency Mauricio Tapia said.
Chile’s agriculture minister, Esteban Valenzuela, said two crew members of a helicopter fighting fires died in a crash Friday afternoon.
“I am very sad about the helicopter crash which killed the pilot and a mechanic who was working to fight the fire” in the La Araucania region, said Valenzuela.
Tapia later revealed that the pilot was from Bolivia and the mechanic was from Chile.
At least four civilians and a firefighter were killed, according to preliminary reports.
The government has declared a catastrophe in the Nuble and Biobio regions, but fires have also ravaged the Maule and La Araucania regions.
Out of Control
President Gabriel Boric decided to take a break from his vacation to visit the devastated area, which has 204 active fires.
56 of them are considered out of control.
Carolina Toha, the Interior Minister, stated that four civilians were killed in the Biobio region.
She went on to say that two of the dead were murdered when fires engulfed the road they were on, while the other two died in a car accident, likely while attempting to flee the inferno.
A firefighter was also slain, according to authorities.
According to Senapred, the national disaster prevention and response service, and CONAF, the national forests corporation, nine individuals were injured, including eight firemen.
In the fight against the fires, 2,300 firefighters and 75 aircraft are involved.
The declaration of a state of disaster makes additional resources available to battle an emergency.
Nuble, along with seven municipalities in Biobio, has been placed on high alert.
The heatwave, with temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), has fueled fears of a repetition of the 2017 disaster, which killed 11 people, damaged 1,500 homes, and devastated 467,000 hectares of forest in the same region.
Chile wildfires burnt more than 750 hectares of forest, farmland
Chile wildfires have burned through more than 750 hectares of forest. Homes...