Chilean authorities battle 31 wildfires
Efforts continued Friday against 31 wildfires in regions of central and southern Chile, the National Emergency Office (Onemi) said in a statement.
Fifty other fires are classified as under control, while four have been extinguished entirely, according to the latest report from Onemi.
The hardest-hit region is Araucania, with a firefighter and two other people dead and 46 homes destroyed. A wildfire remains active in Traiguen and the flames have interrupted the supply of potable water to residents of Pitrufquen, 700km (436mi) south of Santiago.
In the region of Biobio, the number of homes wiped out doubled to four overnight as a result of a particularly dangerous blaze in the town of Nacimiento, where a “Ten-Tanker” aircraft capable of discharging more than 40,000 liters (10,567 gallons) of water has been deployed.
One of the largest of the active fires is near Cochrane in the Aysen region of Chilean Patagonia. The fire has already consumed 10,740 hectares (26,539 acres) of native vegetation and authorities say it will likely require the coming of the rainy season - possibly months away - to complete put out the flames.
Elsewhere in Chilean Patagonia, a fire threatens the town of Chile Chico, which lies near Lago General Carrera, home to a cluster of unique geological formations known as the Marble Cathedral.
To suppress the flames on the shores of Latin America’s second-largest lake, which Chile shares with Argentina, authorities have deployed a Ten-Tanker, smaller aircraft and helicopters, while soldiers are assisting the firefighters and forest service personnel on the ground.
On Feb. 5, the Chilean government declared a state of catastrophe in Biobio, Araucania and another region, Los Rios, to facilitate the response to the wildfires.
The catastrophe declaration opened the door to the direct participation of the military to assure public order as necessary in support of the effort to combat and prevent fires.
More than 4,400 wildfires have been reported across Chile since the start of the austral summer in December, an increase of 7 percent from Summer 2017-2018.
And the extent of land affected by the flames has increased by 50 percent to 47,225 hectares (116,695 acres), according to government data.