Chile's National Service for Disaster Prevention and Response (Senapred) Wednesday ordered the evacuation of 14 communes in the regions of Ñuble, Biobío, and La Araucanía, including Nacimiento, Purén, and Contulmo, which have all been particularly affected by the forest fires.
In messages broadcast through the Emergency Alert System (SAE), the authorities also called on residents to leave their homes to avoid further damage to their health.
It has already been a week since the first wildfires ran amok in south-central Chile despite efforts to contain them. High temperatures, dryness, and strong winds add to the plight of local people and some 5,600 firefighters deployed in the area while helping flocks in from abroad.
Hay que irse.— BioBioChile (@biobio) February 2, 2023
Ya hay casas quemadas al sur de Chillán, en un incendio que @Senapred catalogó de comportamiento extremo y que avanza sin control.
El mismo organismo, que decretó Alerta Roja para la zona, pidió evacuar Villa Jerusalén y Quilmo.
Videos cedidos. pic.twitter.com/UoylVfZZxK
”We are entering this part of the week which is the most complex. Today, tomorrow, and the day after we have an alert for high temperatures in several regions of the country that has mobilized a very large effort (...) to prevent the fires from spreading, Interior Minister Carolina Tohá said regarding the 311 active fires, of which 89 are being fought. The Senapred also said 180 fires were under control, and 309,747 hectares have been affected.
If the temperature rises and the wind increases we can indeed have more problems, and we already have many fires,” Spanish Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Javier Martín Traverso told AFP. Traverso's Air Operations Section of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) arrived in Chile on Sunday to join the firefighting efforts.
Over 309,000 hectares have been consumed in the regions of Maule, Ñuble, Biobío, and La Araucanía with the death toll standing at 24, plus 2,180 people injured as 1,180 houses were destroyed, leaving 5,560 people homeless.
There seems to be a seamless scientific consensus that fires are the result of human actions, either by intentionality or carelessness, although the drought that has hit Chile for 13 years adds to the aggressiveness of the fires.
In this scenario, President Gabriel Boric Font has announced a curfew in the areas of Ñuble, Biobío, and La Araucanía where a state of catastrophe is in force, in order to guarantee the security and tranquility of
the families affected by the crisis. Defense authorities working on the sites will determine the restriction's schedule.
We have 24 people dead nationwide, three are from Santa Juana and we do not want there to be even one more, Boric told reporters after visiting the area.
The number of fatalities was updated to 24 after two bodies were determined to belong to people who had died before the fires broke out.
Meanwhile, Biobío Governor Rodrigo Díaz said he was certain about people criminally setting fires.
I have reports from police, firefighters, of people who have been setting fires. I do not have indications, but certainties, we need more patrols, he insisted in a radio interview.
We have fire outbreaks at the southern exit of Contulmo, different places where fires were set 300 meters away from each other, I could see it, nobody told me about it. The mayor of Mulchén told me how fires were lit in the four cardinal points, I have reports from the police, the Fire Department, from people who have been setting fires. I do not have indications, but certainties, we need more patrols in the area, he explained.
President Boric's Regional Delegate Daniela Dresdner said eight people had been arrested for irresponsible and suspicious attitudes with respect to the setting of fires. This was due to citizen complaints and patrols by the Navy.
We are asking that all these conducts be denounced and we are filing a lawsuit for all these denunciations to [be] prosecute[d], she added.
The Biobío Regional Prosecutor's Office called on the citizenry to e-mail all data regarding criminal behavior to email@example.com, including pictures, videos, audios, or written information as to the probable causes of the fires, which will be handled confidentially.