World

‘Like being in hell’: Chile mourns as wildfire death toll hits 112

2024.02.05 08:08

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A canine stands subsequent to a burnt automotive and particles following the unfold of wildfires, in Vina del Mar, Chile February 3, 2024. REUTERS/Sofia Yanjari/File Photo

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By Alexander Villegas and Jorge Vega

VINA DEL MAR, Chile (Reuters) – Chile started an official two-day mourning interval on Monday for the 112 to date killed in the South American nation’s deadliest wildfires in current historical past, whereas authorities continued to battle blazes fanned by excessive temperatures and powerful winds.

Fires that broke out in central Chile late final week gathered momentum all through the weekend, ravaging the coastal cities of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. Hundreds of individuals stay lacking and a few 14,000 houses have been broken.

Drone footage filmed by Reuters in the Vina del Mar space confirmed complete neighborhoods scorched, with residents rummaging by means of husks of burnt-out homes the place corrugated iron roofs have collapsed. On the streets, singed automobiles littered the roads.

“From one moment to the next, the fire reached the botanical park. In ten minutes the fire was already on us,” Vina del Mar resident Jesica Barrios, who misplaced her house in the fires, informed Reuters over the weekend.

“There was smoke, the sky turned black, everything was dark. The wind felt like a hurricane. It was like being in hell.”

On Sunday evening, Deputy Interior Minister Manuel Monsalve mentioned there have been nonetheless 165 energetic fires, up from 154 on Saturday. A curfew has been imposed in the hardest-hit areas and the army has been despatched in to assist firefighters cease the unfold.

Monsalve mentioned barely decrease temperatures and cloud cowl might assist authorities put out the fires in coming days.

LOWER TEMPERATURES FORECAST

“We’re going to keep having high temperatures, but not extreme ones,” Monsalve mentioned at a press convention.

Chile’s investigative police power (PDI) has mentioned it was investigating areas the place fires may need been began deliberately and native media reported on Monday that two suspects had been detained on suspicion of beginning fires.

Chile, Argentina and different areas in South America’s southern cone have been dealing with a extreme warmth wave, one thing specialists say will grow to be extra frequent in the course of the southern hemisphere summer time months as a consequence of local weather change.

Extreme climate in Chile has additionally been exacerbated by the El Nino climate phenomenon, which warms the Pacific Ocean.

Maria Soledad Suarez mentioned she and her husband had lengthy deliberate for catastrophe, although that they had thought it could seemingly be an earthquake putting the Andean nation, not fires.

“He always thought there would be a disaster, an earthquake or something like that, and we would have been left with nothing to eat,” she informed Reuters.

“So we had three fridges where we would have fruit, in the other chicken and red meat, and in the other vegetables. It was all lost. It was all burnt. The fridges are all gone.”

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