The deadliest wildfires of the past decade in Chile claimed 122 lives on Monday, a toll that has continued to rise since the fire broke out last Friday. Only 32 of the victims have been identified by the Medical Forensic Service (SML) and hundreds are still missing. The disaster is so great that this Monday the Navy asked residents of Viña del Mar, Quilpué, Villa Alemana and Limache, the areas most affected, not to leave their homes unless necessary. Four days after the flames broke out, there are still 165 fires in 10 regions of the country, although they are concentrated in the Mid-South, according to the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service (Senapred). The fire has ravaged more than 26,000 hectares.
Remains of houses in the Valparaíso region.Cristóbal Venegas
Amid criticism of the slowness in identifying the dead, Marisol Prado, director of the SML, said they will conduct biometric identification using fingerprints and begin taking samples from people who have reported someone missing. , with the goal of “carrying out DNA identification later.”
The 9 p.m. curfew has meant that in the middle of the South American summer, the streets of the spa towns in the Valparaíso region are practically empty and there are only a few rebellious tourists. Up in the hills, where the flames destroyed the memories of thousands of families in just a few minutes, the panorama is different. The neighbors clear the rubble of their former home and desperately seek help from the authorities. In total darkness, several affected people stand guard in places such as Villa Rukan, Villa Dulce or Palto Miraflores to prevent looting or the takeover of their land. In addition, there are still fears of new fire outbreaks.
As time passes, suspicions grow that the forest fires were deliberately started – an aspect that the State Department is investigating. While authorities were cautious about this hypothesis, Valparaíso regional governor Rodrigo Mundaca expressed his “absolute conviction” that there were intentions behind the flames. “We have filed a complaint against those responsible. We will hunt them down and imprison them. Citizens must be clear about this because the damage they have caused to us is irreversible,” he warned. “The fires led to killings,” the governor added.
Houses destroyed by fire in Viña del Mar. Cristóbal Venegas
The regional prosecutor of Valparaíso, Claudia Perivancich, ruled out this Monday that there were any detainees, although she explained that there were “strong indications” of possible intent. On Sunday night, police received several reports overnight about people who had allegedly set a fire or used objects to start a fire. According to prosecutor Perivancich, in the six procedures carried out, nothing unusual was found in any of them.
Nicole Martínez, 30 years old, mother of two children, watches over the remains of her property at night. His house is one of the 12,000 destroyed in Viña del Mar. Like his neighbors in El Olivar, the epicenter of the tragedy and a working-class sector, he complains that the authorities have not provided them with assistance. They have nowhere to relieve themselves, and without donations they wouldn't even have bags to throw away what's left of their homes.
The Mayor of Viña del Mar, Macarena Ripamonti, confirmed the population's need for assistance and assured that the municipality had asked the SML to speed up the work on the site and asked the relevant authorities to increase security. On Sunday evening, several neighbors uploaded videos of criminals trying to set fires on various hills and police officers chasing them, not always successfully. “We have lost everything and that creates a very great feeling of insecurity and we need the troops sent by the Bundeswehr to arrive.” They have told us that there will be more than 1,700 people in the affected area, but we absolutely need them there permanently,” he said.
President Gabriel Boric, who declared two days of national mourning, said that the country is experiencing the greatest tragedy since the great earthquake of February 27, 2010, which killed more than half a thousand people: “I say this so that we are able to “assess the pain and magnitude of what we are experiencing.” The fires have hit the central south of the country, particularly the Valparaíso region. Due to the intensity of the damage, in the resort town of Viña del Mar it is not yet possible to quantify or identify all the human remains that have died in the flames since Friday night: many victims were hit by fire while fleeing in their houses. Cars.
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