Americas

6 dead in Chile´s worst wildfires in history

Dry, hot conditions expected to worsen situation in next 48 hours

Ekip   | 26.01.2017
6 dead in Chile´s worst wildfires in history

Chile

By Maria Paz Salas

SANTIAGO, Chile

At least six victims were announced dead Thursday as President Michelle Bachelet ordered her ministers to accelerate aid delivery to victims of the country’s worst forest fires in history.

The South American country is under a state of emergency as 94 fires burn in seven regions in the south and central areas of the country, covering around 240,000 hectares (593,000 acres) of land.

Among the dead are a volunteer firefighter, two policemen, three forest firefighters and one farmer. The fires are not threatening major cities but is affecting rural farming.

The situation is expected to worsen in the next 48 hours because of dry, hot conditions with forecasts around 37 degrees Celsius (98 Fahrenheit but international aid has begun to arrive from Brazil, Colombia, France and Peru.

Firefighters are also receiving help from the SuperTanker -- the world’s largest aerial firefighting aircraft, that arrived Wednesday from the U.S. after Chilean national, Lucy Ana Avilés, paid for the tanker. Aviles is married to the grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton. Aviles and her husband, Benjaim Walton, donated a school following the devastating deadly earthquake in Chile in 2010.

“We will not lower our arms for a second until the situation is under control,” Bachelet said during a news conference after meeting with her ministers to assess the situation.

She said it is very difficult to control the situation because of the current heat wave that has gripped the country during its summer season, and it appears some of the fires may have been intentional.

Attention shifted Thursday morning to the town of Santa Olga, about 360 kilometers (220 miles) south of the capital, Santiago, were thousands of houses were destroyed by the fire.

About 6.000 residents managed to escape the area before flames consumed everything.

The fires began one week ago in Pumanque, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Santiago. Within days it had spread to Constitucion and Concepcion, 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of the capital.

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