Chile–Argentina Heatwave Fans Deadly Fires–Scores Dead And Missing, Cities Threatened.

Photo:EPA. Four residents died in this house, according to reports.
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Hundreds of people are dead and missing as wildfires continue to burn homes in Chile’s mountainous Valparaíso region fanned by breezes and dry conditions.

More than 120 people have been killed in the fires, which have burned down thousands of homes.

President Gabriel Boric said the blaze was “the worst catastrophe to hit the country since the earthquake of 27 February 2010”, in which more than 500 people died.

The smoke from the fires could be seen from space, satellite images showed.

The fires broke out last week amid an unusual heat wave that had drawn tourists to the seaside towns of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, which are normally cooled by sea breezes.

But both cities, as well as the town of Quilpué to the east, have been wrapped in acrid smoke from the forest fires burning in the nearby hills.

The fires were fanned by strong winds and residents described how, within minutes, their hillside communities were engulfed in flames. Drone footage showed the extent of the damage.


Many people were not able to flee in time and were overtaken by the wall of flames. Officials said that 123 had died, but so far only 33 have been identified.

The interior minister said the government’s priority was saving lives and stopping the fire. Meanwhile, volunteers are handing out food and clothes to those who have lost their homes.

Nearly 15,000 homes have been damaged, according to the authorities. Whole neighbourhoods have been razed and photos showed the twisted wreckages of burnt-out cars dotting the streets.

President Boric declared a state of emergency on Friday and imposed a night-time curfew.

Police and experts are investigating whether the fires may have been started deliberately.

Meanwhile in Argentina, the wind made the firefighters’ struggle in Los Alerces harder as flames advanced toward the city of Esquel, which has been partially evacuated, Fire, Communications, and Emergency Department (ICE) Spokesman Mario Cárdenas said.

Over 1,000 hectares of mostly native species in a mountainous area in the Los Alerces National Park have burned down, it was reported. The total damage at Los Alerces is estimated to have reached some 3,500 hectares.

“Yesterday afternoon the fire had another explosion and went to the Esquel side. It did not reach Esquel, it is still far away, but it burned in that direction, so it advanced a lot more again,” Mario Cárdenas, head of the Fire Communications and Emergencies Department (ICE) of Los Alerces National Park, told Télam.

“Yesterday’s weather conditions recomplicated us. And there is still wind, so, although it will not be so hot today, we are facing a very adverse panorama,” he added.

Sources: BBC, MercoPress.
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