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Chile's neighbors send help to fight forest fires

January 29, 2017

Thousands of firefighters and volunteers have continued to battle Chile's worst-ever forest fires. The fires have killed a total of 11 people.

Waldbrände in Chile
Image: Reuters/J. Golzalez

Thousands displaced in deadly Chile wildfires

More than a hundred separate fires were still raging in Chile on Saturday. While 50 were under control, 62 of them were not. Ten fires have been extinguished. The fires have affected an area of 375,000 hectares and damaged or destroyed more than 4,000 homes in the center and south of the South American country. 

Waldbrände in Chile
A firefighter in San CarlosImage: Reuters/J. Golzalez

President Michelle Bachelet said on Saturday that 4,500 volunteer firefighters and members of the country's national forest brigades, 4,600 police officers, and other public officials were tackling the fire and dealing with its consequences. The death toll as a result of the fires had risen to 11, the president said. 

Karte Chile Waldbränder ENG

"We are fighting the fire without pause and without precedent," Bachelet declared.

Firefighters from Spain arrived on Saturday to help.

Also on Saturday, a team of 80 experts in forest fires arrived in Santiago from Venezuela and a team of 21 firefighters arrived from Panama to help with rescues.  

Other countries which have sent aid are Argentina, France, Portugal and Mexico. A Russian aircraft is due to arrive on Sunday with firefighting aircraft due in from Brazil and Peru.

A drought has made the forest fires worse than usual at this time of the year. Environmentalists have blamed climate change as the cause of the drought. Authorities have arrested more than 35 people, accused of either starting the fires or making them worse. 

Waldbrände in Chile
Fighting a fire in HualquiImage: Picture-Alliance/AP Photo/E. Felix

jm/bw (EFE, AFP)