MercoPress, en Español

Montevideo, June 9th 2023 - 12:06 UTC



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

Monday, January 23rd 2017 - 18:32 UTC
Full article 16 comments

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. Read full article


Disclaimer & comment rules
  • ElaineB

    My favourite part of Chile has been ravaged by fire for weeks. What on earth was the government doing? Where they all on vacation or doing the usual Chilean procrastination. Finally they are asking for foreign assistance as the volunteer firefighters are exhausted and, in parts, overwhelmed.

    Jan 23rd, 2017 - 08:13 pm - Link - Report abuse -2
  • Marti Llazo

    Speaking of La Via Chilena when it comes to firefighting: a few years ago a major forest/brush fire broke out in southernmost Chile and one of their (CONAF) Soviet-designed firefighting helicopters ( Polish PZL W-3 Sokol, a 1970s design) was dispatched. The funding for the helicopter project provided for just the machine and no money to train chileno pilots, so they had to hire the pilots from Spain. The Spanish pilots were paid 10 million chilean pesos per month.

    I visited some friends in Puerto Natales in Chile last year and while there I asked about a totally burned-out building in the centro. The building that burned down was the.... fire station.

    Jan 23rd, 2017 - 10:21 pm - Link - Report abuse -3
  • MerryEnglander

    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.

    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:

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

    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”?

    Jan 24th, 2017 - 09:46 am - Link - Report abuse +3
  • ElaineB

    @ MerryEnglander

    You completely misunderstood my post. Where am I blaming the government for natural disasters?

    This has been going on for weeks on an unprecedented scale and what I am criticising is the lack of action from the government. It took weeks of raging fires and for the international press to take an interest before a disaster zone was announced and troops sent to help. Volunteer firefighters are working around the clock with no government assistance. You do know that the fire service is entirely run by volunteers, don't you? They spend their free time fundraising when not working other jobs.

    I have friends in the disaster zone in contact with me daily. They are organising food, drink and clothing for the firefighters and people that have lost everything. They are also remembering the last great natural disaster when the region was hit by a massive earthquake and the same President did nothing to help.

    Try reading my post again and maybe speak to some of your friends in Chile in the disaster zone and you may understand a little better.

    Jan 24th, 2017 - 10:43 am - Link - Report abuse -2
  • MerryEnglander

    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 - Link - Report abuse +3
  • jakesnake

    After the fires are they going to plant native trees and vegetation? Or will they do what they've done most of the time in the past and plant fast-growing (and fast-burning) non-native eucalyptus and pines?

    Jan 24th, 2017 - 01:35 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • ElaineB

    @ ME

    “You clearly think the government response has been inadequate.”

    Yes, exactly. I did not blame them for the fires as you tried to accuse me of but of their inadequate response.

    The government were informed of the problem but waited too long before instructing the military and asking for outside help. If you were in the disaster zone you will know that is exactly what the majority of people affected have articulated.

    You defend the government but MB has a reputation for not grasping the seriousness of a disaster and using resources. There are wildfires every year that I am there. There are earth tremors every time that I am there and sometimes earthquakes. But it is the failure to recognise when it has escalated to a disaster and to react accordingly.

    Jan 24th, 2017 - 02:54 pm - Link - Report abuse -1
  • MerryEnglander

    I didn't mean to imply that you thought the government had started the fires. I meant that you implied that government inaction had worsened the magnitude of the catastrophe. Which I think is unfair.

    I don't know which is your favourite part of Chile, but it is an exaggeration to say that it “has been ravaged by fire for weeks”.

    I was in Santa Cruz and no one was articulating anything about the tardy disaster response because there was no disaster to respond to.

    In Santa Cruz Onemi raised the status to red alert on the 14th of January once the fire reached 1000 hectares. The air force was deployed and crews were brought in from Aysen.
    By the 18th the status for Santa Cruz was lowered to yellow.

    On the 18th red alert was declared in Pumanque and other areas. The Pumanque fire was the most devastating Chile has ever suffered. The resources were overstretched.

    With election year coming there are opportunist politicians point scoring and genuine dismay from people affected by the fires, but it is too soon to accuse the government of a tardy response.

    Jan 24th, 2017 - 04:03 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • ElaineB


    You posted to me “@Elaine Isn't it unfair to blame procrastination for this natural disaster?”

    I didn't.

    The rest is opinion and I disagree with your opinion on the matter. I stand by my assessment of the situation.

    Jan 24th, 2017 - 07:47 pm - Link - Report abuse -2
  • Marti Llazo


    It turns out that not only did that natalino fire station burn down, but at the time it was being “manned” unlawfully by a 17-year-old, who died in that fire.

    Take a drive through Natales sometime and count the number of burned-out buildings. It's rather disturbing.

    La vía chilena, no cabe duda alguna.

    Jan 24th, 2017 - 08:52 pm - Link - Report abuse -3
  • Think

    Mr. MerryEnglander

    Always a pleasure reading your well informed post (and witnessing you putting them numpties in their right place ;-)

    You are, without a shadow of a doub, my kind of Anglo...
    Keep the good work...
    Kind regards...
    El Think

    Jan 25th, 2017 - 01:33 am - Link - Report abuse +2
  • MerryEnglander

    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.

    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.

    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 - Link - Report abuse +4
  • ElaineB

    @ ME

    Why are you so keen to argue with me? You started on the basis of something I didn't say and continue to try to draw me in.

    My opinion is based on information I know to be true. You see it differently, so let's leave it at that.

    Jan 25th, 2017 - 01:28 pm - Link - Report abuse -1
  • MerryEnglander

    It is a forum/comments section. If you don't wish to comment...

    Besides, I am not keen to argue. In fact I already clarified that you are right about my mistake in my first post.

    The point I have challenged you on is you assertion that there is a part of Chile that has been ravaged by fire for weeks. This is simply not correct. If you choose to think otherwise, carry on.

    Jan 25th, 2017 - 02:22 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • ElaineB

    @ ME I did comment and will continue to do so as and when I wish to.

    Jan 25th, 2017 - 08:30 pm - Link - Report abuse -1
  • Marti Llazo

    Looks as though Bachelet's characteristically inept performance in response to the huge fire problem has not gone unnoticed. The latest shows Bachelet's government approval at just 18 percent ( 15% in one survey), the lowest ever for someone whose incompetence should have been clearly evident a very long time ago. Even long-dead Pinochet gets higher marks for governance.

    Bachelet's approval has been in the dumps for a long time, and decent presidents would resign when their approval gets this low.

    Three-quarters of those surveyed apparently thought her government just did it all wrong:

    “Un 75%, además, no está de acuerdo con que el gobierno tomó decisiones de forma oportuna y adecuada para enfrentar la emergencia.”

    The worst since Chile's return to democracy:

    “Bachelet alcanza peores niveles de aprobación y desaprobación desde el retorno de la democracia”

    Jan 29th, 2017 - 12:43 pm - Link - Report abuse -1

Commenting for this story is now closed.
If you have a Facebook account, become a fan and comment on our Facebook Page!