Chile wildfires destroys entire villages

2017-01-26 21:18
Flames in the forest in Pumanque, Chile. (Esteban Felix, AP)

Flames in the forest in Pumanque, Chile. (Esteban Felix, AP)

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Santiago - Forest fires in central Chile have killed seven people, displaced thousands and destroyed entire villages, the government said Thursday.

President Michelle Bachelet raised the death toll in a press conference on Thursday after a farmer died.

Four firefighters and two policemen were earlier reported to have been killed while battling the blaze over the past week.

Multiple blazes have ravaged 240 000ha and are growing, she said.

Frantic locals have been joining in efforts to tackle the blaze to save their homes, animals and farmland.

Bachelet Tuesday ordered extra funds to fight what she called the country's worst forest fires ever.

At least 4 000 people were evacuated earlier this week, the National Emergency Office said.

More than 4 000 emergency workers are battling the blaze, with the help of water-dumping aircraft.

Climate change

More hot and windy weather was forecast for Thursday, raising fears the fires will continue to spread.

The fires have struck mainly in sparsely populated rural areas in the central regions of O'Higgins and El Maule.

Bachelet said the flames were now advancing towards the state of Biobio, further south.

Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said the United States, Canada and various other countries have offered help.

Fires are common in Chile's parched woods during the Southern Hemisphere's summer. Most are caused by human activity.

But this year was considered worse because of a drought attributed by environmentalists to climate change.

Read more on:    chile  |  fires
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