Raging wildfires claim 26 lives, destroy more than 100 homes in Chile

chile wildfires goes-east 2220z february 3 2023

At least 13 people were reported dead and more than 100 homes were destroyed as of early Saturday morning (UTC), February 4, 2023, as a result of the more than 150 wildfires burning across Chile. Most of the wildfires are in Biobío and neighboring Ñuble.

The Chilean government has declared a state of disaster after a devastating heatwave and strong winds sparked massive forest fires. The declaration allows for coordination with the military and suspension of constitutional rights.

As of late Friday (local time), 151 wildfires were recorded throughout the country, 65 of which were declared under control. The fires have blazed through 14 000 hectares (34 595 acres) of land, destroyed more than 100 homes, and claimed the lives of at least 13 people.

Most of the affected homes are located in Biobío and neighboring Ñuble regions.

The death toll includes a firefighter who lost his life while battling the flames, a pilot and a mechanic who died in a helicopter crash in the southern region of Araucania, and four civilians in the Biobío region.

chile wildfires goes-east 2220z february 3 2023 bg
Image credit: NOAA/GOES-East, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers. Acquired at 22:20 UTC on February 3, 2023

Over 2 300 firefighters and 75 aircraft have been deployed to combat the fires.

President Gabriel Boric has suspended his vacation to visit the affected areas and has stated that there is evidence that some of the fires have been started by unauthorized burnings.

With high temperatures and strong winds expected to persist, the Interior Minister, Carolina Toha, has warned that the conditions in the coming days will be risky, making it more difficult to control the fires.

The wildfires have caused fears of a repeat of the 2017 fires, which burned through 465 400 hectares (1 150 000 acres) of forest and resulted in 11 deaths and the destruction of 1 500 homes.

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Update, February 6

The death toll rose to at least 26 people with nearly 1 000 others injured.


1 Chile reports 13 deaths in raging wildfires – DW – January 4, 2023

2 13 dead in Chile amid struggle to contain raging wildfires – AP – January 4, 2023

Featured image credit: NOAA/GOES-East, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers. Acquired at 22:20 UTC on February 3, 2023


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