1675809184 origin 1

At least 23 dead, nearly 1,000 injured as forest fires rage in Chile

origin 1Houses burn by the side of a road during a bushfire. -/Agencia Uno/dpa

At least 23 people have died as a result of the devastating forest fires raging in Chile, officials said.

Another 10 people are missing in the municipality of Santa Juana in the Bío Bío region, about 500 kilometers south of Santiago, Interior Minister Carolina Tohá said on Saturday.

Nearly 1,000 people were injured, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Manuel Monsalve said on Saturday evening.

A large number of homes have been damaged or destroyed in the fires, with a total of 1,429 people currently in emergency shelters.

“In the last week of this crisis, the same area burned as in a normal year,” said Tohá.

“Weather conditions have made it difficult to put out the fires. They are spreading and the emergency is getting worse. We need to reverse this trend”.

The number of fires rose from around 200 on Friday to more than 250 on Saturday, according to the interior minister. The firefighters and residents put out the flames.

The causes of the fires were initially still unclear. Although the weather service’s heat warning has ended, temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius are still being recorded in the regions of Ñuble, Bío Bío and Araucania.

Seven people have been arrested for allegedly intentional setting of fires, according to Monsalve. “Of course we will pursue them,” he said. “There are 23 dead, so causing a fire has the character of a possible homicide.”

President Gabriel Boric had previously pointed out that residents continued to burn waste even when the outside temperature reached 42 degrees Celsius.

Thousands of firefighters and residents battled the flames, with dozens of planes deployed. The government has asked for international help, and Spain and Argentina have sent or announced support, among others.

Boric interrupted his summer holidays in the southern Patagonia region to visit the affected area.

The government has now also declared a state of emergency for the Araucaria region, following similar decrees for Ñuble and Bío Bío.

origin 1A car burns during a forest fire. Rodrigo Garrido/Agencia Uno/dpa