Hell in Chile, 99 deaths from fires and thousands of houses burned

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By John

Chile is shocked by a devastating fire emergency. As the hours passed, the fires in the Valparaíso region turned into a tragedy, with 99 deaths, 1,300 homes destroyed or damaged by the flames and 46,000 hectares of vegetation and forests gone up in smoke.

President Gabriel Boric, who had already declared a state of catastrophe on Friday, admitted after visiting the most affected areas (Viña del Mar, Quilpué, Villa Alemana y Limache) that the most recent toll of 64 deaths “is provisional”, because «it only concerns people included in an official recognition list of the forensic medical service».

“The number of victims is destined to grow”, explained Boric, who lashed out against people who “cynically work to cause a massacre like this”, assuring that “we will find them and make the full weight of the law weigh on them ». Then he announced that he had decreed two days of national mourning, asking the population to join the relatives of the fatal victims.

In line with Boric’s statements, the Minister of the Interior Carolina Tohá also said that a malicious component to the flames is certain, so much so that the Valparaíso Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation in order to confirm the existing indications of intentionality for at least four fires. “We are faced with the greatest tragedy we have suffered in Chile since the earthquake and tsunami of February 27, 2010”, underlined Boric, before leaving the city of Quilpué.

Drama within the drama, families of people who died in the city of Viña del Mar complained to the media showing about ten corpses that were not recovered by rescuers, and which must be permanently monitored to protect them from attacks by stray dogs.

Furthermore, many citizens have reported cases of thefts carried out by “jackals” in abandoned houses, for which the governor of Valparaíso, Rodrigo Mundaca, has assured that a night curfew will be introduced in the most vulnerable areas.

For these and other situations, the work of the Chilean firefighters and special teams is enormous, because it concerns the devastation caused by the 43 fires that developed in different areas, which continue to expand due to the high temperatures of the southern summer, and due to the propitious weather conditions.

The entire Chilean government is mobilized to help deal with the emergency, and Defense Minister Maya Fernández has ordered, in coordination with the Interior, the deployment of 1,311 soldiers from the three branches of the Armed Forces.

While the head of Foreign Affairs, Alberto van Klaveren, announced that Chile “is turning to the international community for help”, specifying that “we are coordinating to convey our specific needs”.

The drama that the population is experiencing was also remembered by Pope Francis, who at the Angelus invited the faithful to “also pray for the dead and injured of the devastating fires that hit central Chile”.