Major forest fires continue in Chile
Among the nearly 300 fires that remain active, firefighters report 79 as out of control.
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According to the latest statement from Chile's National Disaster Prevention and Response Service (SENAPRED), there are currently 289 fires throughout the country, out of which 168 have been controlled, 42 are under observation and 79 are out of control.
There are 39 uncontrolled fires in La Araucanía, 19 in Ñuble, 12 in Biobío, four in Maule, three in Los Ríos, one in O'Higgins and one in Los Lagos.
“Together with different teams from our Government, we have been present in the areas affected by the fires, working to control the emergency and deploying early aid that leads to prompt reconstruction. We continue to work hard to get back on our feet! ” wrote the Chilean President Gabriel Boric on Twitter.
According to the SENAPRED report, the forest fires, which have affected several regions of the country for two weeks, have killed 24 people, destroyed 1,478 homes, and left 5,945 homeless.
Junto a diferentes equipos de nuestro Gobierno, hemos estado presentes en las zonas afectadas por los incendios, trabajando en controlar la emergencia y desplegando ayudas tempranas que den paso a la pronta reconstrucción. Seguimos trabajando intensamente para ponernos de pie! pic.twitter.com/UZriTYucam— Gabriel Boric Font (@GabrielBoric) February 13, 2023
Antonia Urrejola, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, joined the Portuguese ambassador to Chile to receive a brigade of 144 Portuguese firefighter on Sunday, who are joining the fight against the fires.
The aid will focus on the nine red alerts that are still in force in the regions of O'Higgins, Maule, Ñuble, Biobío and La Araucanía, and the five yellow alerts in Los Ríos and Maule.
Specialists have announced the presence of a ‘climate window,’ which will help lower temperatures in some sectors, benefiting the work being done by firefighters and brigade members to fight the fires.
¡Ya son más de 750 brigadistas extranjeros en el #CombateDeIncendios!— Gobierno de Chile (@GobiernodeChile) February 12, 2023
La ministra de @Minrel_Chile, @UrrejolaRREE, junto al embajador de Portugal, Carlos Amaro, recibió hoy a una Fuerza Operacional Conjunta portuguesa, compuesta por 144 personas, entre bomberos y especialistas pic.twitter.com/BFpfPB3eWO
A foretold tragedy?
According to an article on the website of German Public TV channel Tagesschau, the current emergency is the product of a wrong decision made years ago.
Highlighting the situation as ‘critical,' Andrés Meza, a forest engineer member of the Association of Forest Engineers for the Native Forest, pointed out that in addition to the heat waves that cause extreme temperatures, the monocultures that prevail in the affected regions act as accelerators of the fire.
Meza references the Eucalyptus crops — a species native to Australia, which becomes an accelerator because is contains many oils considered explosive.
“Eucalyptus was introduced to Chile more than 100 years ago. Today, this tree dominates the forestry industry in the burned regions. In large plantations it is cultivated on an industrial scale. In the center and south of the country, tree plantations were carried out in many sectors in the past decades. Within the framework of the neoliberal economic model, the dictator Augusto Pinochet ordered the promulgation, in 1974, one year after the brutal military coup, of decree 701. By virtue of this, the Monterrey pine and eucalyptus plantations were subsidized by the State, fast-growing,” wrote DW.