BOGOTA, Colombia – At least 99 people have been killed and 1,600 have been left homeless by forest fires in central Chile’s Valparaiso region, authorities said.
Chile’s Legal Medical Service, the state coroner said “its forensic institution delivers its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims.”
There are 161 active fires across Chile, according to Alvaro Hormazabal, director of the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service.
A botanical garden founded in 1931 in the city of Vina del Mar was almost completely destroyed by the fire.
Authorities have urged thousands of people to evacuate their homes and have imposed curfews in the cities most heavily impacted by the fires to free up routes and allow emergency vehicles to reach affected areas.
Shocking images of hundreds of cars burned by the fires, which have devastated entire neighborhoods, are circulating on social media. More than 200 people have been reported missing in Vina del Mar and the surrounding area, a popular coastal region for tourists during the summer holidays.
Chile President Gabriel Boric said the death toll could further increase as large fires continue to engulf parts of Valparaiso. Firefighters are struggling to reach densely populated areas to contain the fire. After visiting the affected areas, Boric declared two days of national mourning for fire victims.
The president said high winds were making it difficult for firefighters to control the wildfires, which have already burned through 8,000 hectares (19,768 acres) of forest and urban areas.
The fires came as record-high temperatures hit the South American country due to an El Niño weather pattern that has caused high temperatures and triggered forest fires in several Latin American states including Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina. (Anadolu)