OAN’s Abril Elfi
4:15 PM – Sunday, February 4, 2024
The death toll in Chile continues to rise as thousands of people have been left homeless and at least 99 have died due to forest fires.
On Sunday, authorities declared that at least 99 people have died in the fires and have extended curfews in the cities most severely damaged.
Interior Minister Carolina Tohá said there are 92 active fires that started on Friday burning that have affected more than 43,000 hectares and more than 1,350 homes have already been affected.
President Gabriel Boric issued an order for two days of national mourning for the forest fires victims and said that the number of victims is expected to rise.
“I know that it is a very difficult time to lose the house that was built with so many years of sacrifice,” the president said. “Losing a family member, a loved one, is a heartbreak impossible to measure, but rest assured that our government is deployed with all the human, technical and budgetary resources.”
Rolando Fernández, one of the residents who lost his home, spoke with the press, saying he has been left with nothing.
“I’ve been here for 32 years and never imagined this would happen,” Fernández said. “I’ve worked my whole life, and now I’m left with nothing.”
To put out the fires, Tohá said that three shelters had been set up in the Valparaíso region and that over 450 firefighters and 19 helicopters had been sent to the area.
She also stated that rescue teams were still having trouble getting to the neighborhoods that had been hit the hardest. Neighborhoods on the outskirts of Viña del Mar have been affected by the fires that are burning in difficult-to-reach mountains.
Blackouts have been reported by officials as a consequence of the fire. According to Tohá, three senior living facilities and four hospitals in the Valparaíso area had to be evacuated, and the fire also destroyed two bus terminals.
Rodrigo Mundaca, the governor of the Valparaíso region, said on Sunday he believed that some of the fires could have been intentionally caused
“These fires began in four points that lit up simultaneously,” Mundaca said. “As authorities, we will have to work rigorously to find who is responsible.”
According to Chile’s Legal Medical Service, only 32 bodies out of the 99 have been identified.
In order to allow fire engines and ambulances to more easily reach those farther away from the fires, authorities are urging residents in the impacted areas to leave their homes as soon as possible.
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