At least 23 people have died as dozens of forest fires burn in Chile.
At least 23 people have died as dozens of forest fires burn in Chile. © Images AGN

SANTIAGO (AGN) – Chile has dozens of wildfires that have killed at least 23 people so far. On Saturday, the government issued an emergency order for another area because of the fires.

Chile is now undergoing a wildfire.

A later Saturday official briefing said that more than 1,100 people have taken refuge in shelters and at least 979 people have been hurt by the raging fires.

Chile is now undergoing a wildfire.

The latest emergency order is for the southern part of Araucania, which is near the middle of South America’s long Pacific coastline and next to the already declared Biobio and Nuble regions.

“The weather has made it very hard to put out the fires that are spreading, and the situation is getting worse,” Interior Minister Carolina Toha told reporters at a news conference in the capital, Santiago.

Chile is now undergoing a wildfire.

“We need to turn that trend around,” she said, adding that 76 more fires had broken out on Friday.

Officials say that 16 more fires broke out on Saturday, when temperatures in the summer in the Southern Hemisphere were over 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius).

The emergency orders cover three sparsely populated areas with a lot of farms and forests. Grapes, apples, and berries are grown there for export, and there are also large areas of forest land.

Officials told reporters on Saturday that the governments of Spain, the United States, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela have offered help, such as planes and firefighters.

On Friday, an emergency support helicopter crashed in La Araucania, killing both the pilot and the mechanic.

Authorities said that 11 of the victims, or nearly half of those who have died so far, died in the town of Santa Juana in Biobio, which is about 310 miles (500 km) south of Santiago.

Helicopters have been dropping fire retardant on raging fires since the end of last week, while billowing clouds of smoke block roads. Residents and firefighters are both working hard to put out the fire, which is happening under a hazy orange sky.

The orders let soldiers and other resources be sent to the area to help with the natural disaster.

Official data released late Friday shows that the fires have burned about 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres), which is bigger than the U.S. city of Philadelphia.

The national forestry agency CONAF said on Saturday that 151 of the 231 wildfires are under control and 80 are still being fought.

Officials said that more than 90% of the fires were put out before they burned more than 12 acres (5 hectares).

Chile is now undergoing a wildfire.

But people who got caught in one of the wildfires that couldn’t be put out had no choice but to leave right away.

Carolina Torres, who was running away from a fire near the city of Puren in the Araucania region, said, “I left with what I was wearing.”

“I think everyone here did the same thing because the winds changed and you had to grab everything right away.”

Friday, President Gabriel Boric cut short his summer vacation and went to Nuble and Biobio, where he promised to help in any way he could.

Boric also said that there were “signs” that some fires may have been started on purpose, but he didn’t say more.

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