“We have a lot of preliminary and yet to be officially confirmed information that suggests we will reach a higher number,” Doha noted. More than 300 people are still missing. Given the expected number of victims, the interior minister spoke of what could be the worst emergency in the South American country since a severe earthquake in 2010. During that time, more than 520 people died.
The Forestry Commission on Sunday registered 159 fires across the country, covering a total area of 28,000 hectares. Doha said more than 3,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the Valparaiso area alone.
Chile: Forest fires kill dozens
Forest fires continue to spread in Chile. Dozens of people have already lost their lives.
The area west of the capital Santiago, home to about 1.8 million people, has been hit hard by the fires, according to the government. The fire, near the coastal towns of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, is said to have spread to about 9,600 hectares.
Curfew to facilitate firefighting
On Friday, President Boric declared a state of emergency to mobilize all necessary resources in areas already affected by the disaster. Now he has ordered the defense ministry to deploy more army units. A curfew was imposed in some communities to facilitate firefighting and rescue operations.
Investigations into possible arson
Principal Poric said an investigation is underway into whether the fire was set intentionally. He announced at an inquest that “it is difficult to imagine who could have caused such tragedy and such pain.”
According to the interior minister, the government has “serious information” that the fire near Valparaiso was deliberately started. Further south in Maule, a man was arrested for causing a fire while working on a welding machine.
During the Southern Hemisphere summer, severe forest fires occur repeatedly in Chile. Last year, 425,000 hectares of land burned in central and southern Chile – about eight times the area of Lake Constance. At least 26 people were killed.