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State of emergency in Chile because of wildfires; smoke cloaked Santiago

Monday, January 23rd 2017 - 18:32 UTC
Full article 16 comments
The largest has consumed 24,000 hectares in and around Pumanque, a rural area some 140 kilometers south of the capital Santiago, near some of Chile's vineyards. The largest has consumed 24,000 hectares in and around Pumanque, a rural area some 140 kilometers south of the capital Santiago, near some of Chile's vineyards.
The smoke from the blazes cloaked Santiago in a thick haze. Television news images showed helicopters and planes trying to douse the out-of-control fires The smoke from the blazes cloaked Santiago in a thick haze. Television news images showed helicopters and planes trying to douse the out-of-control fires

Chile declared a state of emergency on Friday as more than a dozen wildfires that have scorched nearly 50,000 hectares threatened to encroach on towns, factories and vineyards. Firefighters, forestry service personnel and members of the military are battling 18 separate blazes in the center and south of the country that have been fueled by strong winds and a heat wave.

 The largest has consumed 24,000 hectares in and around Pumanque, a rural area some 140 kilometers south of the capital Santiago that is near some of Chile's vineyards.

“I've instructed the Interior Ministry to declare a catastrophe zone and a state of emergency in the areas affected by the fires,” President Michelle Bachelet said on Twitter.

The smoke from the blazes cloaked Santiago in a thick haze. Television news images showed helicopters and planes trying to douse the out-of-control fires, apparently to little avail.

The head of Chile's CONAF forestry service, Aaron Cavieres, said the fires were caused by humans, but that it could not be determined whether they were set intentionally.

CONAF said it would close access to all national parks between the northern Coquimbo and south-central Biobio regions until Sunday. While several fires are in the vicinity of some of Chile's national parks, none have been directly affected.

Categories: Economy, Environment, Chile.

Top Comments

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  • MerryEnglander

    @Elaine
    If your opinion is based on your belief that your “..favourite part of Chile has been ravaged by fire for weeks”, you should check your facts.

    @Marti
    I have been all around the houses in Natales. Tidy wooden houses, subsidised gas and a chulengo in every front garden. If that is the “via Chilena” I like it.

    Of course for the guy who thinks the sun never shines in Aysen I wouldn't expect a different view.

    @Think
    The “numpty” was intended solely for Marti and to be fair he doesn't need to be put in his place, he already knows his place ... under a black cloud, in a country he hates.
    Greetings from the Kingdom of Northumberland.

    Jan 25th, 2017 - 12:22 pm +4
  • MerryEnglander

    @Elaine
    Isn't it unfair to blame procrastination for this natural disaster?

    From what I have read, this is a catastrophe of huge proportions. It is the worst fire Chile has ever faced. By yesterday they had extinguished 80 fires and 100 where still burning. In the first 5 days over 100,000 hectares have been consumed, that is the same scale as the Albert fires of last year.

    The Chilean government has accepted offers of help from several countries, but you can't expect international deployments to be quick or even much more than largely symbolic. In the Albert fire last year 300 South Africans were sent. Within a week they went on strike.

    @Marti
    I was visiting friends in Norfolk a couple of years ago and I asked what the burnt out building in town was...turns out is was the fire station:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-26525149

    A couple of years before that I was in North Berwick visiting friends and I asked what the burnt out building in town was...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-26525149

    These fire stations weren't wooden shacks where volunteers get some kip whilst on duty, embarrassingly these weren't £100 million + installations manned by professional, full time crews who, er, hadn't fitted smoke alarms.

    Next year I could visit friends all over North America where local fire stations have burnt down.

    “Via Chilena”?
    Numpty!

    Jan 24th, 2017 - 09:46 am +3
  • MerryEnglander

    @Elaine
    I was in the “disaster zone” two weeks ago.
    It has not been going on for weeks on an unprecedented scale.
    There are always wild fires at this time of year in the parts of Chile affected.

    A week ago the situation changed dramatically (probably the hand of arsonists) and the number of fires burning started to overwhelm local resources. Onemi brought in bomberos from around the country to help. What more could they have done? You can't declare an emergency before there is one.

    In your first post you asked:

    What on earth was the government doing?
    Where they all on vacation or doing the usual Chilean procrastination?

    You clearly think the government response has been inadequate.
    What should they have done differently?

    Sometimes mother nature throws us more than we can handle despite our best efforts, like here in Northumberland, when we get 3 inches of snow instead of 2 inches.

    Jan 24th, 2017 - 12:06 pm +3
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