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Central Chile's forest fires claim 112 lives in devastating 3-day blaze

Chile forest fire update: In response to the crisis, President Boric declared two days of national mourning. He pledged support for the affected families and announced the temporary conversion of a presidential vacation home into a leisure center for children impacted by the fires.

Edited By: Nitin Kumar @Niitz1 Santiago Published on: February 05, 2024 9:10 IST
Chile forest fire
Image Source : AP Locals embrace each other amidst debris and burnt-out houses after forest fires reached their neighborhood in Vina del Mar, Chile.

Central Chile grappled with catastrophic forest fires that erupted two days ago, claiming at least 112 lives. The fires, intensifying around the popular city of Viña del Mar, have prompted extended curfews in the most affected areas. The fires raged with unprecedented intensity around Viña del Mar, destroying a renowned botanical garden founded in 1931. The flames have left at least 1,600 people without homes, particularly impacting neighborhoods on the city's eastern edge.

200 people unaccounted for in Viña del Mar

As the fires swept through Viña del Mar, officials reported 200 people missing, raising concerns about the safety of residents trapped in their homes. The city, known for its beach resort and annual music festival, facing a dire situation as the death toll continues to climb.

Town of Quilpé reports 64 deaths

Chilean President Gabriel Boric visited the heavily affected town of Quilpé and confirmed 64 deaths. However, the Forensic Medicine Service later updated the death toll to 112. President Boric expressed concerns that the number could rise as rescue workers search through collapsed homes, and some victims are in critical condition.

Governor suspects arson

Governor Rodrigo Mundaca of the Valparaiso region, where Viña del Mar is situated, suggested that some fires might have been intentionally set. President Boric echoed this theory, emphasising the need for a rigorous investigation to determine responsibility for the devastating blazes.

8,000 hectares already consumed

President Boric highlighted the challenging conditions faced by firefighters, including unusually high temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds. The wildfires have already scorched through 8,000 hectares (30 square miles) of forest and urban areas, making containment efforts difficult.

Evacuations urged, curfews imposed

Authorities called for swift evacuations in fire-affected areas while imposing curfews in Viña del Mar, Quilpé, and Villa Alemana to prevent looting. The ongoing forest fires are exacerbated by a week of record high temperatures and the El Niño weather pattern, which has caused droughts and increased fire risks in western South America over the past two months.

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