Chile extended an emergency declaration to yet another region as firefighters struggled to control dozens of raging wildfires that have killed at least 23 people amid a record-breaking heat wave.
On Saturday, the government declared a state of catastrophe in the La Araucanía region, south of Nuble and Biobio – two central-southern regions where an emergency declaration had already been issued. The measure allows for greater cooperation with the military.
At least 23 people have died in connection to the fires and at least 979 people have been reported injured by the raging fires, including 16 in serious condition, according to interior minister Carolina Toha. The death toll is likely to rise as Toha said there are unconfirmed reports of at least 10 people missing.
Over the past week, fires have burned through an area equivalent to what is usually burned in an entire year, Toha said in a news conference.
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As of Saturday morning, there were 251 wildfires raging throughout Chile, 151 of which were under control, according to Chile’s Senapred disaster agency.
“Seventy-six new fires appeared yesterday,” Toha said Saturday.
The minister also suggested the fires should serve as yet another wake-up call about the effects of climate change.
“The evolution of climate change shows us again and again that this has a centrality and a capacity to cause an impact that we have to internalise much more. Chile is one of the countries with the highest vulnerability to climate change, and this isn’t theory but rather practical experience.”
Chile is requesting international cooperation to assist the firefighting efforts.
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“We’re requesting support from several countries to address the emergency,” President Gabriel Boric wrote on social media.