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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Chile Wildfires Claim 112 Lives, Prompting National Mourning Days

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In a devastating turn of events, deadly wildfires have wreaked havoc in Chile, claiming the lives of at least 112 people, making it the deadliest fire event in the nation’s history, according to Interior Minister Carolina Toha. The fires, intensified by a prevailing heatwave, have consumed approximately 26,000 hectares (64,000 acres) in central and southern regions, reported the national disaster service, SENAPRED.

Chile Wildfires Prompts National Mourning Days

As of Sunday, there are still 40 active fires across the country, with the area surrounding Viña del Mar bearing the brunt of the inferno. The renowned botanical garden established in 1931 in Viña del Mar was razed to the ground, leaving at least 1,600 people homeless.

Undersecretary Manuel Monsalve, in a press conference on Sunday, disclosed that the medical examiner had received 112 bodies, with 32 identified so far. He also noted that there are 200 people reported missing in Viña del Mar and its vicinity. The situation remains critical, as smoke engulfs coastal cities, compelling residents in core regions to evacuate their homes.

President Gabriel Boric declared Monday and Tuesday as national mourning days to honor the fire victims. During a conference, he expressed that the death toll is expected to rise significantly. The urgency of the situation prompted the proclamation of a state of emergency, as the fires continue to pose a severe threat.

In a bid to control the escalating crisis, the governor of the Valparaiso region, Rodrigo Mundaca, announced a curfew in Vina del Mar, Quilpue, Villa Alemana, and Limache, allowing officials to concentrate on firefighting efforts. Quilpue Mayor Valeria Melipillan described the fire as “probably the largest ever” in the area, resulting in damage to around 1,400 homes. Despite effective evacuation attempts, some residents expressed reluctance to leave their houses.

Pope Francis urged prayers for the victims, posting on X, “Pray for the deceased and injured victims of the devastating fires that have affected central Chile.” The global community mourns with Chile as the country faces this catastrophic event.

President Boric announced that the defense ministry would deploy additional military personnel to the affected areas, providing essential supplies to aid in firefighting efforts. This tragic incident echoes the devastation of February 2023, when fires swept through over 400,000 hectares, claiming the lives of more than 22 people. The resilience of Chileans and international support will be crucial in overcoming this unprecedented disaster.

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