Ongoing wildfires in Chile have claimed at least 11 lives and have destroyed thousands of homes, according to authorities in the South American country. The raging wildfires in the country have also consumed, according to authorities, an area approximately three times larger than New York City.
CNN reported that Chile‘s President Michelle Bachelet has declared a state of emergency, in the country. She said that there has never been, in the history of the South American nation, been anything on this scale.
Government reports indicated that over half of the people killed by the raging wildfires in Chile have been firefighters. They have been fighting over 100 separate fires, half of which are still out of control.
In a statement made in the capital Santiago on Thursday, President Bachelet said the possibility of arson has not been ruled out. She said that because there have been numerous points of origin, the possibility cannot be overlooked that there may be an intentional component behind the fires.
According to The New York Times, the path of the wildfires is moving dangerously close to the city of Concepcion. While firefighters have made significant progress battling the fires, there are still approximately 118 fires that remain active. Of those, 53 are contained.
The wildfires in Chile began almost two weeks ago. They have spread quickly, perhaps in part due to a drought the country has been experiencing. According to the Chicago Tribune, climate change and the dry weather has been blamed by environmentalists. So far, an area approximately 593,000 acres large has burned in Chile.
International help has been sent from four countries. The United States, Russia, Peru and France have all sent assistance. Later this coming week, aid from two other countries, Colombia and Mexico, is expected to arrive in Chile. According to Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz, Canada, Austria, Germany, Israel, Japan, Sweden, and Italy have all pledged to assist in some way.
The U.S. embassy in the country said that a donation of $100,000 is going to be made from the U.S. Agency for International Development to Caritas Chile, a nongovernmental organization. The money will be used to get firefighting equipment and fire prevention tools, such as chainsaws and weather monitoring tools. Also, the U.S. Forest Service sent a four-person emergency response team of technical experts to work alongside the local authorities.
To assist with fighting the fires from the air, the United States sent a Boeing 747-400 Super Tanker to Chile. It should prove to be helpful. The 747 is capable of dumping close to 20,000 gallons of water or water mixed with fire-retardant. The Boeing Super Tanker and crew was hired by the Chilean wife of a Walton heir to assist in combatting the wildfires. The plane has fighting fires in the El Maule region. Russia has sent a similar supertanker airplane to assist in the wildfire fight.
The ongoing wildfires in Chili completely destroyed the city of Santa Olga on Thursday evening. In all, there have been at least 2,000 homes destroyed by the fires. Reports indicate that, as of now, 8,000 people are now homeless after the fires destroyed entire neighborhood. Over 4,000 firefighters have been battling the multiple wildfires.
By John Samuels