Death toll from Chile wildfires surpasses 20
The death toll from wildfires raging in south-central Chile has increased to 22 with over 500 people having been injured, Interior Minister Carolina Toha was quoted by Sputnik News Agency.
“A total of 554 people were injured, 16 of them in serious condition and 22 people have died,” Chile’s disaster management authority quoted Toha on social media on Saturday.
On Friday, Chile’s disaster agency Senapred announced that at least 13 people had died due to forest fires blazing through several regions, including Biobio, Nuble, and La Araucania. Currently, 251 wildfires are raging in Chile, of which 76 appeared in the past 24 hours.
A State of emergency declared in the two regions after wildfires swept through 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres) of land.
The government has declared a state of emergency in two regions — Biobío and Ñuble — and is asking for help from neighboring countries.
The fires took hold as temperatures surged across the country, and hundreds of homes have been damaged.
The havoc is a result of the more than 150 wildfires burning across Chile in the midst of a scorching heat wave.
Four of the deaths involved two separate vehicles in the Biobío region, around 560 kilometers south of the capital of Santiago.
“In one case they were burned because they were hit by the fire,” Tohá said. In the other case, she said, the victims died in a crash “probably trying to escape the fire”.
A fifth victim was a firefighter who was run over by a firetruck while fighting a blaze in the area.
Later in the afternoon, a helicopter that was helping combat the flames crashed in the Araucanía region, killing the pilot, a Bolivian national, and a mechanic, who was Chilean.
Most of the wildfires are in Biobío and neighboring Ñuble. The heatwave hitting Chile is set to continue with high temperatures and strong winds that could make the blazes even more challenging.