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Chile enters state of catastrophe after forest fires kill at least 13 people

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Fire razed more than 47,000 hectares, destroyed 97 homes and left 22 injured; two of the dead were occupants of a helicopter that crashed while fighting the flames

Javier Torres/AFPFields burned during fire in Santa Juana, province of Concepción, Chile
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The 204 fires that reached the south-central zone of the Chile this Friday, the 3rd, left at least 13 dead, which led the government to declare a state of catastrophe in the region. Initially, the Minister of the Interior, Carolina Tohá, had spoken of four victims. “We have to regret the confirmation of four dead people. They are people who moved around in vehicles” in the town of Santa Juana, in the region of Biobío. The official explained that two of the victims died after being reached by the flames when they were traveling along a road, while two others died in a traffic accident, “probably trying to escape the fire”. Then there was information about a fifth dead person, also in Santa Juana: a volunteer from the local fire department.

Later, two more deaths were recorded in La Araucanía, when a helicopter that was participating in the fight against the outbreaks crashed, killing its two occupants. “Very saddened by the helicopter crash in which the pilot and the mechanic who worked on firefighting in the commune of Galvarino in La Araucanía died,” wrote the country’s Minister of Agriculture, Esteban Valenzuela, on Twitter. “We have to point out that there are 13 dead in total, 11 in the municipality of Santa Juana and a pilot and a mechanic who were in a helicopter that was carrying out their role to fight this fire,” said Mauricio Tapia, deputy national director of the National Prevention Service. and Disaster Response (Senapred).

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According to authorities, more than 200 fires razed more than 47,000 hectares and left 97 homes completely destroyed and 22 injured. Of the 204 active fires, 56 are out of control. The situation, which is far from being controlled, brings to mind the catastrophe experienced in this region in early 2017. At the time, a mega forest fire left 11 people dead, around 6,000 affected, more than 1,500 houses destroyed and 467,000 hectares affected. As in that year, the fires started in cultivated areas and in forests, and advanced to threaten and affect populated areas.

Traffic on one of the main roads leading to the city of Concepción (510 km south of Santiago) had to be restricted since yesterday due to the proximity of the flames. One of the epicenters of the tragedy is the town of Santa Juana, 52 km south of Concepción. According to a resident, interviewed by Cooperativa radio, the fire started to threaten the houses around 7 am. By noon, the flames had practically engulfed the property, despite the owner’s efforts to stop it. “I just ask that God have mercy. Just that. What I went through is in God’s hands,” he declared.

*With information from AFP

Source: Jovempan

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