Chile declares state of catastrophe after fires kill at least 13 people

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Dozens of forest fires in Chile have killed at least 13 people and burned about 14,000 hectares, authorities said on Friday (3), as a summer heat wave sweeps the country.

Eleven people, including a firefighter, died in the town of Santa Juana, in Biobio, a region about 500 kilometers south of the capital Santiago, local authorities said.

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The agriculture minister also reported that an emergency support helicopter in the southern region of La Araucania crashed, killing the pilot and a mechanic.

Catastrophe states were declared in the agricultural and forest areas of Biobio and neighboring Nuble, leading to the deployment of troops and additional resources.

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Hundreds of homes were damaged, while 39 fires broke out across the country, Interior Minister Carolina Toha told reporters. “Conditions in the coming days will be risky,” she mused.

She pointed out that the ground equipment and a fleet of 63 planes available are reinforcing the fight against fire, with the expectation of help from Brazil and Argentina.

President Gabriel Boric cut short his summer vacation on Friday and traveled to Nuble and Biobio, which together have a population of nearly 2 million people.

“My role as president today is to ensure that all resources are available for the emergency and that people feel that they are not alone,” Boric said.

He also pointed to “signs” that some fires may have been intentionally started.

Some families sought refuge in shelters, according to the Chilean disaster agency Senapred. Fires disrupted traffic on highways and several settlements were evacuated.

Weather forecasts on Friday were for temperatures above 38°C in Chillan, capital of Nuble, with strong winds threatening to worsen wildfire conditions.

Source: CNN Brasil

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