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Deadly wildfires are devastating Chile and its native forests

More than 120 hectares of forest, along with houses, farms and fields, have been destroyed by fires in Chile. President Michelle Bachelet: “This is the worst forest disaster in the country’s history”.

More than 100 wildfires have been raging in Chile for over a week. 500 firefighters and 1,200 troops are trying to putting out the fires that are devastating the country and led President Michelle Bachelet to declare a state of emergency.

“The firefighters are doing all that is humanly possible,” Bachelet told BBC. “But Chile has practically exhausted its capacity to fight the blazes,” she added. So far, three firefighters have died in the attempt of extinguishing fires, while 120,000 hectares of forests have been destroyed and 230,000 hectares have been affected. 4,000 people and 46 aircrafts between canadairs and helicopters are working to tackle fires.

chile forest wildifres
Several houses have been destroyed © REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

“Chile is facing the worst forest fires it has ever seen,” said the Chilean President, describing how wildfires are devastating the country, in particular a vast area south of the capital, Santiago. Chile, like other South American countries, is going through one of the hottest and driest periods of the last few decades.

Wildfires are forcing people out of their homes

Some of the wildfires raging in Chile are suspected cases of arson and police forces are investigating and carrying out the first arrests. Numerous families were forced to evacuate their homes and several farms have been destroyed. Among other Chilean affected by fires, Susana Molina, 82, a boutique wine producer, has seen all her fields destroyed and Sergio Amigo Quevedo has lost nearly 6 hectares of 120-year-old vines. “It is hard to believe that those vines, which you have taken care of with such love and sacrifice, are lost, along with part of the viticultural patrimony of Chile, because of a voracious fire caused by careless men,” Amigo told the Washington Post.

chile forest fires
A satellite image of forest fires and smoke © NASA

The Ministry of the Interior is monitoring the situation and stated that “the Chilean Meteorological Office suggests that the trend of temperatures will continue as predicted, with record peaks of 37.4°C in Santiago”. This will make it more arduous to extinguishing fires.

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