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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Central Chile in Crisis: Forest Fires Claim 112 Lives in 3 Days

Central Chile is in the grips of a devastating crisis as massive forest fires, raging for three days, have claimed the lives of at least 112 people. Firefighters are tirelessly battling the flames, which erupted with the highest intensity around the city of Viña del Mar. The destruction includes the iconic 1931 botanical garden, leaving 1,600 people homeless and several neighborhoods in ruins.

The Unrelenting Blaze in Viña del Mar

The heart of the disaster lies in Viña del Mar, where firefighters are grappling with a fierce blaze that has consumed the famous botanical garden and left over 1,600 people without homes. The flames, fueled by high winds and dry conditions, devoured neighborhoods on the city’s eastern edge, with 200 people reported missing. Viña del Mar, a city of 300,000 known for its beaches and renowned music festival, is now a scene of devastation.

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Presidential Visit and Rising Death Toll

Chilean President Gabriel Boric visited the heavily affected town of Quilpé, where he reported 64 casualties. A subsequent update from Chile’s Forensic Medicine Service raised the confirmed death toll to a staggering 112. Boric expressed concerns that the toll could rise as rescue workers navigate collapsed homes. The governor of the Valparaiso region, Rodrigo Mundaca, raised suspicions of intentional fires, emphasizing the need for a thorough investigation to identify those responsible.

Battle Against Unfavorable Conditions

The fires, originating in hard-to-reach mountainous forested areas, have now encroached upon densely populated neighborhoods despite authorities’ efforts. President Boric highlighted the challenges posed by unusually high temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds, hindering control efforts. Over 8,000 hectares of forest and urban areas have already succumbed to the flames. Boric, witnessing the devastation firsthand, declared two days of national mourning and converted a presidential vacation home into a refuge for affected families.

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