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Chile forest fires claim 46 lives with death toll expected to rise

President Gabriel Boric declared a grim update on Saturday as the death toll from the rampant forest fires in central Chile reached 46. The Valparaiso region, housing nearly a million inhabitants, witnessed black smoke engulfing the sky, prompting intensified firefighting efforts.

Edited By: Nitin Kumar @Niitz1 Santiago Updated on: February 04, 2024 10:27 IST
Image Source : REUTERS A house burns amid the spread of wildfires in Vina del Mar.

In a tragic turn of events, the death toll from the relentless forest fires in central Chile has surged to 46, with President Gabriel Boric issuing a sombre warning that the numbers are likely to rise further. The Valparaiso region, housing nearly one million residents, is grappling with the aftermath as black smoke engulfs the sky, a stark reminder of the ongoing crisis.

Rescue efforts are hampered in areas around the coastal tourist city of Vina del Mar, among the hardest-hit regions. Firefighters, utilising helicopters and trucks, are tirelessly battling the flames, but the scale of the disaster presents significant challenges for reaching all affected areas.

President Boric provided a distressing update, confirming that 40 people lost their lives directly in the fires, while an additional six succumbed to burns in hospitals. Expressing the severity of the situation, he acknowledged the inevitability of an increasing death toll in the coming hours.

Interior Minister Carolina Toha revealed earlier in the day that the country is grappling with 92 active fires, leaving over 43,000 hectares devastated by the incident. The Valparaiso region, known for its picturesque landscapes, now bears the scars of this devastating disaster.

Chile has faced wildfires during the summer months before, and the toll this time is reminiscent of the challenges encountered last year. A record heat wave in the previous season claimed 27 lives and impacted over 400,000 hectares. Despite the current fires affecting a smaller area, the rapid multiplication of impacted hectares is a cause for concern, highlighting the unpredictable nature of this crisis.

The urgency of the situation is underlined by the fact that between Friday and Saturday, the affected hectares surged from 30,000 to a staggering 43,000. Interior Minister Toha emphasized that one of the gravest concerns for authorities is the proximity of some active fires to urban areas. The high potential for these fires to affect people, homes, and essential facilities amplifies the challenges faced in managing this crisis.

As Chile faces this devastating chapter, the collective efforts of firefighters, rescue teams, and authorities are crucial in mitigating the impact and preventing further loss of life. The nation remains on edge as it confronts the escalating consequences of these widespread forest fires.

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(With inputs from AP)


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