Chile declares state of emergency as devastating forest fires kill at least 51

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Chile’s widespread forest fires claim 51 lives, death toll is expected to rise.

CHILE, Feb 4: Chile has plunged into a state of emergency grappling with widespread forest fires that have claimed the lives of at least 51 people, and authorities fear the death toll will surge further. President Gabriel Boric, addressing the nation in a televised statement on Saturday, acknowledged the severity of the tragedy, stating, “Given the conditions of the tragedy, the number of victims will surely increase in the coming hours.”

In response to the escalating crisis, Boric announced that the defense ministry would dispatch additional military units to the affected areas, ensuring all necessary resources are made available. The state of emergency has been declared for the provinces of Marga Marga and Valparaíso, with a curfew imposed in select communes between 8 a.m. and midday local time to facilitate the deployment of emergency and logistical support.

Interior Minister Carolina Tohá revealed that approximately 92 active fires are currently raging across various parts of the country, affecting around 43,000 hectares. While firefighters have managed to control 40 of these fires, they continue to battle against 29 others. Authorities have detained one person in connection to the wildfires, with reports suggesting the individual was engaged in welding work at home in the city of Talca, central Chile, leading to an accidental fire that spread to nearby grasslands.

Emergency crews are prioritizing efforts in the port city of Valparaíso, where fires pose a significant threat to urban areas. The mayor reported that approximately 372 residents are missing, and one of the fires has already consumed around 6,800 hectares. The wildfires in Valparaíso have wreaked havoc on an estimated 1,100 homes.

Interior Minister Tohá expressed the utmost concern about fires in close proximity to urban areas, emphasizing the high potential for affecting people, homes, and installations. The death toll is anticipated to rise in the coming hours, with authorities working to confirm information from areas they have yet to access.

Tragically, at least six individuals lost their lives while receiving treatment in hospitals for burns, according to authorities. The nation remains on high alert as emergency teams strive to contain the ferocious wildfires and prevent further loss of life and property.

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