South American country declares emergency in several central-southern regions as blazes — 56 of them out of control — burn 100 homes, 47,000 hectares of forest and leave at least 13 dead.
Chile has declared a state of disaster in several central-southern regions after a devastating heat wave provoked forest fires that left at least 13 people dead, authorities said.
More than 100 homes have been affected and 47,000 hectares of forest destroyed since the fires broke out on Wednesday, officials said on Friday.
"We have to announce that there are 13 deaths in total, 11 in the Santa Juana municipality," head of the Senaprad national disaster agency Mauricio Tapia said.
Two crew members of a helicopter that was fighting the fires died in a crash on Friday afternoon, Chile's Agriculture Minister Esteban Valenzuela said.
"I am very sad about the helicopter crash which killed the pilot and a mechanic who were working to fight the fire" in the La Araucania region, said Valenzuela.
The latest two deaths added to four civilians and a firefighter previously reported killed.
Chile declares state of disaster in several central-southern regions after devastating heat wave ignites forest fires, leaving at least seven people dead, authorities say pic.twitter.com/izVNielwJI— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) February 3, 2023
Nearly 40 fires raging
The government has declared a state of disaster in the regions of Nuble and Biobio, but fires have also affected the regions of Maule and La Araucania.
President Gabriel Boric decided to suspend his holidays to visit the affected area, where there are 204 active fires.
Of those, 56 are out of control.
Interior Minister Carolina Toha said the four civilians had died in the Biobio region.
Toha said two of the dead were killed when the fires engulfed the road they were traveling on, while the other two died in a car accident, presumably while trying to escape the inferno.
Authorities later said a firefighter had also been killed.
The Senapred national disaster prevention and response service and the CONAF national forests corporation said nine people have been hurt, including eight firefighters.
Some 2,300 firefighters and 75 aircraft are involved in the battle against the flames.
The declaration of a state of disaster allows extra resources to be made available to combat an emergency.
Nuble has been put on red alert, alongside seven municipalities in Biobio.
The heatwave, with temperatures touching 40 degrees Celsius, has created fears of a repeat of the 2017 disaster in which widespread fires in the same region left 11 people dead, destroyed 1,500 homes and affected 467,000 hectares of forest.