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Chileans search rubble for wildfire victims as death toll rises to 131

By Alexander Villegas

VALPARAISO, Chile (Reuters) - Lower temperatures on Tuesday brought relief to central Chile where firefighters tried to extinguish the remnants of wildfires that have killed at least 131 people in recent days, while families combed the rubble in a search for missing relatives.

Only 35 victims have been identified and hundreds remain missing because of the fires, which broke out late last week and then spread to large swaths of central Chile.

In Valparaiso, a coastal city close to areas hardest hit by the fires, the coroner's office is lined with tents and a support staff is there to provide psychological support and DNA testing for people looking for family members.

But with many of the recovered bodies having been severely burned and with hundreds of DNA samples to process, the identification process is taking longer than many families hoped.

"They took my DNA, from my two sons, but they didn't say how long it would take," said Carlos Orellana, 67, one of the first people to show up on Tuesday to look for a missing relative.

Orellana is looking for his 14-year-old daughter, Anastasia Elizabeth, who disappeared after a fire on Friday. Later on Tuesday, Orellana and his family will go on another search through the rubble to look for the missing girl.

Thousands of families like his are doing the same in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster to strike the South American nation since the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 500 dead.

"A lot of people are still in a state of uncertainty, they don't know what happened," said Pamela Gonzalez, a psychologist with the government health service who's helping families at the coroner's office in Valparaiso

"They don't know what happened with their family members and hope they're alive with a another family member or neighbor."

Gonzalez, who has done similar work in previous wildfires, says many people have faced post-traumatic episodes following the recent disaster. She says now that the most important thing families can get is closure and community support.

President Gabriel Boric visited the region on Tuesday and announced a series of measures to help families, including suspension of certain utility payments, donations of housing supplies and improved medical leave.

(Reporting by Alexander Villegas; Editing by Brendan O'Boyle and Paul Simao)