Chile mourns the victims of world’s third-deadliest wildfire this century

Key Points
  • Two days of national mourning have been declared in Chile after wildfires engulfed the Valparaiso region.
  • At least 122 people have been killed and hundreds are still missing.
  • Survivors have returned to scorched areas, which are still without electricity and limited water.
It took ten minutes for Abraham Mardone to lose everything.
The 24-year-old welder narrowly escaped the fast-paced inferno that engulfed his home in Vina Del Mar, a coastal town northeast of Chile’s capital Santiago over the weekend.
“We saw the fire on the hill in front of us. We looked out again and the fire was already at the walls of our house. It took only 10 minutes. The entire hill burned,” he said.
“The fire consumed everything — memories, comforts, homes. I was left with nothing but my overalls and a pair of sneakers that were given to me as a gift.

“I could only rescue my dog.”

Upon his return on Sunday, he said he found several neighbours who had died in the flames.
“All of Chile weeps for Valparaiso,” President Gabriel Boric said, as he declared a state of emergency on Sunday and met with survivors at a local hospital.
During his Sunday address, Pope Francis, a native of neighbouring Argentina, called for prayers for the “dead and wounded in the devastating fires in Chile”.
On Monday, Chile began two days of national mourning for at least 122 victims of the raging blaze which has become the world’s third-deadliest wildfire this century.

The fires are reportedly the South American country’s deadliest wildfires in recent history.

The region of Valparaoso and Via del Mar, in central Chile, woke up on Saturday with a partial curfew to allow the movement of evacuees and the transfer of emergency equipment in the midst of a series of unprecedented fires, authorities reported. Source: AFP / Javier Torres

Rescue workers search scorched debris for missing people

The search continues for missing survivors in the rubble, with at least 14,000 homes destroyed in the fires.
The fires surged Friday in the region, fuelled by winds and amid a brutal heatwave that has seen temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius.

Authorities are investigating whether they were started deliberately.

A team of 31 firefighting helicopters and aeroplanes, some 1,400 firefighters, 1,300 military personnel and volunteers combated the flames over the weekend.
Volunteers streamed to the worst-hit areas to help families, rescue pets, and deliver food, water, and tents.
On Sunday, hilltop neighbourhoods that overlook the tourist hotspot found themselves without electricity and with limited water, the streets strewn with charred cars, debris and ash.
“The most important parts of my house were saved, but now we are without electricity, we can’t do anything or charge our cell phones,” said 63-year-old Patricia Guzman.

“Traffic is complicated with burned cars, everything is devastated.”

Firefighters spray water onto the roof a house to protect it from fires burning nearby.

Firefighters protectively spray water on homes as forest fires burn nearby, in Vina del Mar, Chile. Source: AAP / Esteban Felix

In the hillsides around Vina del Mar, entire blocks of houses were burned out. Some of the dead were seen lying on the road, covered by sheets.

“This was an inferno,” Rodrigo Pulgar, from the town of El Olivar said.
“I tried to help my neighbour… my house was starting to burn behind us. It was raining ash.”
The fires are being driven by a summer heatwave and drought affecting the southern part of South America caused by
Scientists have warned that a warming planet has increased

– With additional reporting from Reuters

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