Santiago de Chile (EFE).- The fires in Chile have entered what the Government describes as a “containment phase”, with 60 of them still in combat (not controlled), a significant reduction eleven days after a tragedy broke out which has caused 24 deaths and more than 6,000 homeless, and burned nearly 400,000 hectares.
“We can say that the emergency situation is in greater containment,” said the Undersecretary of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve, at a press conference on Tuesday.
The advance of the flames has slowed down in recent days: between February 10 and 11, for example, the fires advanced on more than 40,000 hectares, and between February 12 and 13, they affected nearly 2,300 hectares, the undersecretary explained. although some are still active.
According to the latest report from the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service (Senapred) of the Chilean Ministry of the Interior, the hardest-hit regions are Biobío, with 197,560 hectares affected; Araucanía, with 100,000, and Ñuble, with 63,800.
In addition to the deceased, the fires have left nearly 6,800 homeless, almost 3,000 attended by health services and more than 1,500 homes completely destroyed.
High temperatures due to fires in Chile
Despite the improvement of the emergency in the center-south, starting this Wednesday, the Metropolitan Region of the capital, in the center of the country, will suffer high temperatures that could fuel new fires
As of Friday, this alert expands again to the regions of Maule, Ñuble, Biobío and northern Araucanía, the epicenter of the devastating fires.
“The emergency has not ended, and the fire risk conditions will continue this week,” warned the Undersecretary of the Interior.
Authorities and private corporations maintain this Tuesday 140 aircraft in the firefighting in the central south, together with the more than 10,700 troops working on the ground, including brigade members, volunteer firefighters, and police and armed forces personnel.
Monsalve clarified that, although the fire fighting forces were reduced in the central south, the alert is still active throughout Chile: “The amount of resources is decreasing in the central south, but because the improvement in the emergency allows these troops to be released to other areas that can eventually be a risk scenario,” he said.
Most of the fires are caused by human activity and, according to the executive director of the Chilean National Forestry Corporation (Conaf), Christian Little, of the nearly 600 fires investigated so far this summer season, 25% are intentional. .
According to the police force of the Carabineros, the authorities have already arrested 31 for their alleged responsibility in starting sources of fire, either due to negligent actions or an alleged direct intention, and they have made themselves available to the Public Ministry.
The fires began in south-central Chile in the first week of February, with several simultaneous outbreaks that spread with greater virulence in the Ñuble, Biobío and Araucanía regions, between 350 and 600 kilometers south of the capital.
The lack of resources (in Chile the fire brigade is not professional), the mismanagement of the forests and the adverse climatic conditions accelerated the tragedy, the most serious of its nature in the country.
Aid to the victims
The Chilean authorities have already activated aid for the nearly 6,000 victims, for example, provisional housing for families who have lost their homes; This Tuesday, the Government of Chile delivered the first provisional housing after the passage of the fire.
Likewise, the Executive is preparing a bond of up to 1.5 million pesos (about 1,885 dollars) that it will deliver to families to alleviate the expenses of material losses caused by the fire, which will be complementary to other measures such as temporary housing or aid employment for the elderly.
French brigade members join the fight
A team of 83 French brigade members and firefighters arrived in Chile on Tuesday to strengthen the fight against forest fires, which are affecting the central-southern part of the country.
“As in 2017, France expresses its solidarity with Chile by sending 83 brigade members and firefighters to help fight forest fires. In 2017 there were 70 people, this year more than 80,” said the French ambassador to Chile, Pascal Teixeira, who received the contingent together with the Chilean Foreign Minister, Antonia Urrejola.
“France also has a long history of forest fires, as was the case in 2022, which is why all the fire brigade members who are here come from the south of France, which is the area most exposed to forest fires,” added the diplomatic.
Minister Urrejola, for her part, thanked the French for their support and stressed that “it is moving to know that we are not alone, that there are men and women who cross oceans to help us fight the fires.”
More than 800 brigade members, firefighters, soldiers, and specialists from various areas from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, and Venezuela work to extinguish forest fires.