“All of Chile mourns Valparaiso”: From Monday, Chile will celebrate two days of national mourning in memory of the 122 victims of the devastating fires in the tourist regions in the center and south of the country, which also left thousands of people homeless.
• Also read: At least 51 dead in fires in Chile
• Also read: Forest fires in Chile, smoke-filled tourist regions
Since Friday, in the middle of the southern summer, the country has been confronted with the deadliest forest fires in its recent history.
According to the latest official report on Monday, at least 122 people have died, all in the tourist region of Valparaiso (center).
President Gabriel Boric described these fires as “the greatest tragedy” that the country has experienced since the 2010 earthquake, followed by a tsunami that claimed more than 500 lives, and assured that “Chile mourns the whole of Valparaiso” by calling a Mourning was ordered for a two-day national holiday.
And the number of fires could continue to rise. As authorities reported 112 deaths on Sunday, President Boric assured during a trip to Quilpué, on the edge of the seaside resort of Viña del Mar: “This number will increase, we know it will increase in a meaningful way.”
In this city, 120 km north of the capital Santiago, entire hills, some densely inhabited by middle-class families and others by families from more precarious backgrounds, were completely devastated.
The mayor of the seaside resort, Macarena Ripamonti, announced on Sunday that around 190 people were missing there.
With no electricity and little water, residents in affected areas are now suffering from a lack of basic supplies, while streets are covered in rubble, charred cars and cold embers.
“The most important parts of my house were saved, but now we have no electricity, we can't do anything or charge our cell phones. Traffic is complicated by burned cars, everything is destroyed,” Patricia Guzman, 63, a resident of a neighborhood of Quilpué where houses were not completely destroyed, told AFP.
Traffic on roads in disaster areas in this region popular for its beaches and wine-growing is being made more difficult by the arrival of volunteers as firefighters and rescue workers search for victims.
In Quilpué, an AFP team found that entire neighborhoods were charred and cars were charred. Thousands of residents were stuck there for several hours on Friday as they tried to escape by car.
Teams are still working to extinguish around forty fires in the country, some of which prompted preventive evacuations on Sunday in Til Til, 60 km north of Santiago, and in Galvarino, 400 km south of the capital, near a large region, which is also affected, led to major fires in February last year.
Supported by around thirty firefighting helicopters and aircraft, around 1,400 firefighters, 1,300 soldiers and volunteers are fighting the flames.
Pope Francis on Sunday called for prayers for the victims of the Chilean fires, among the deadliest fires of the 21st century in the world, while the European Union and France expressed their solidarity and willingness to help in the face of the devastation caused by the fires.
Since Wednesday, temperatures in central Chile and the capital Santiago have been almost 40 degrees.
This heat wave, resulting from the El Niño climate phenomenon, is currently hitting the southern tip of Latin America in the middle of summer, causing wildfires that are worsened by global warming. After Chile and Colombia, the heat wave will also threaten Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil in the coming days.