“The whole of Chile mourns Valparaíso,” said President Gabriel Boric from the central Chilean city, moved by the worst forest fires in recent history. Until yesterday the government had counted 122 deaths with at least 15,000 people homeless and 370 missing in Viña del Mar, while investigations aim to determine if, as suspected, The start of the fire was intentional.
Without electricity, little water and a lot of heat, residents of Quilpué and Villa Independencia, in the populated hills of Valparaíso, about 120 kilometers northwest of Santiago, suffer from the lack of basic services among streets covered with debris, charred cars and ashes.
“The most important thing in my house was saved, but now we can't do anything, not even charge our cell phones. Everything is devastated”, Patricia Guzmán, 63, told AFP from the Canal Chacao sector, devastated by the flames.
The mobilization on the routes of the affected areas worsens as volunteers arrive, people who want to help families, assist pets, deliver food, water, tents, and firefighters and official teams are also working to search for victims in burned sites.
In the middle of the southern summer, this area of beaches visited by tourists has a large part of its hotels without employees because they have been affected by the catastrophe. The latest balance sheet shows almost 15,000 homes damagedas reported by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve, who added that the largest number of victims is concentrated in Viña del Mar.
Remains of a car seen after a forest fire, in Viña del Mar, Chile. Xinhua Photo
These fires that started on Wednesday, in parallel with a heat wave with more than 40 degrees, spread in a matter of hours on Friday and They are among the three deadliest of the 21st centuryafter those in Australia in 2009 (179 deaths) and those in Hawaii in August 2023 (more than 100 deaths).
The weather conditions improved with a typical phenomenon on the Pacific coast, which produces a lot of cloudiness, high humidity and decreases the heat, although “there will be high temperatures until Tuesday,” said the Minister of the Interior, Carolina Tohá. The teams were working to extinguish 40 outbreaks.
The Chilean Legal Medical Service announces that there are at least 99 dead after the devastating fires.
Yesterday the researchers confirmed the hypothesis that President Boric had advanced on Saturday, who said that his government He suspected a criminal act behind the start of some outbreaks.
This Monday, the head of National Defense in the provinces of Valparaíso and Marga Marga, two of the most affected, Rear Admiral Daniel Muñoz, reported the arrest of two suspects of starting the fire in the vicinity of the Botanical Garden of Viña del Mar, which was totally destroyed.
“They were spotted by an Air Force helicopter and then detained“said the official. However, the Local Prosecutor's Office decided not to formalize an accusation because there is not enough evidence to link them to the incident. Thus, both suspects were released and the investigation continues.
In a conversation with radio ADN, Muñoz pointed out that “in the origins there are indications, as far as we know, a pattern of behavior that indicates that there was planning, something orchestrated and organized”he added.
The regional governor of Valparaíso, Rodrigo Mundaca, indicated the same, who emphasized the “manifest intentionality” of the forest fires. Regarding the possible perpetrators, the governor said that “they are a handful of miserable and criminals who have come to destroy this city.”
The most affected areas are in Viña del Mar, which has been overpopulated for decades without urban planning, with precarious and poor settlements.
These social factors, added to the complicated orography of the place, the prolonged drought in Chile and the extraordinarily high temperatures of the last week, were the breeding ground for these accidents. It remains to be seen whether human hands intervened in the event.
Source: AFP, EFE and Clarín