Advertisement

Wildfire ‘tragedy of very great magnitude’ in Chile

epa11124911 People fight the fire in the Las Palmas area during the forest fires affecting Vina del Mar, Valparaiso Region, Chile, 03 February 2024. The fires in the central region of Valparaíso have caused at least 19 deaths, according to official reports.  EPA/AILEN DIAZ

epa11124911 People fight the fire in the Las Palmas area during the forest fires affecting Vina del Mar, Valparaiso Region, Chile, 03 February 2024. The fires in the central region of Valparaíso have caused at least 19 deaths, according to official reports. EPA/AILEN DIAZ Photo: AAP

Fires devastating parts of central Chile have killed at least 64 people and the country faces a “tragedy of very great magnitude,” President Gabriel Boric says as he warned that the death toll likely will surge in coming days.

Wildfires that began several days ago are menacing the outer edges of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, two coastal cities popular with tourists.

The urban sprawl of those cities accounts for more than a million residents west of the capital Santiago.

Chilean authorities have introduced a 9pm curfew in the hardest-hit areas and sent in the military to help firefighters stem the spread of fires while helicopters dumped water to try to douse the flames from the air.

Boric, announcing two days of mourning starting on Monday, said Chile should prepare itself for more bad news.

The death toll rose from 51 on Saturday.

“We know that figure is going to grow, it’s going to grow significantly,” Boric said in a televised speech, adding, “We are facing a tragedy of very great magnitude.”

“It is Chile as a whole that suffers and mourns our dead,” Boric said.

Hundreds of people also have been reported missing, authorities said.

More than 1000 homes have been damaged.

Officials on Saturday said more than 90 fires were raging across Chile.

Although wildfires are not uncommon during the southern hemisphere’s summer, the lethality of these blazes stands out, making them the country’s worst disaster since the 2010 earthquake in which about 500 people died.

Last year, on the back of a record heat wave, 27 people died and more than 400,000 hectares of land were affected.

Boric has sought to channel funds to the hardest-hit areas, many of which are popular with tourists.

“We are together, all of us, fighting the emergency. The priority is to save lives,” Boric said.

—AAP

Advertisement
Advertisement
Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.