Chile wildfires kill 10 people

Residents watch a forest fire burn in Pumanque, Chile. (AP)
Residents watch a forest fire burn in Pumanque, Chile. (AP)

Santiago - Raging forest fires in central Chile have killed 10 people, displaced thousands and destroyed entire villages, the government said on Thursday.

Multiple blazes fuelled by strong wind and drought conditions have ravaged 273 000 hectares in just over a week.

The latest fatality was a fireman killed when a tree fell on his truck in the Biobio region 550 km south of the capital Santiago, the regional government said.

So far five firefighters, two policemen and three local residents have been killed while battling the blazes.

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

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

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.

More hot and windy weather in the forecast raised 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.

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.

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