Forest fires kill 64 in Chile, menace urban areas

00:18, Monday, 05 February, 2024
Forest fires kill 64 in Chile, menace urban areas

Forest fires raging in central Chile have killed at least 64 people and the death toll is likely to keep climbing, according to local authorities, as emergency services battled to snuff out flames threatening urban areas, Reuters reported.

Black smoke billowed into the sky over many parts of the Valparaiso region, home to nearly one million inhabitants in central Chile, while firefighters using helicopters and trucks struggled to quell the fires.

In a statement carried by Reuters, Chilean authorities said areas around the coastal tourist city of Vina del Mar have been some of the hardest hit and rescue teams were struggling to reach all the affected areas.

The death toll rose when five bodies were found on public roads, and information indicates "we are going to reach much higher figures" in coming hours, said Interior Minister Carolina Toha.

"The condition of Valparaiso is the most delicate," Toha said, saying the country was facing its worst disaster since a 2010 earthquake that killed about 500.

Wildfires are not uncommon in Chile over the summer months. Last year, on the back of a record heat wave, some 27 people died and more than 400,000 hectares (990,000 acres) were affected.

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