Raging forest fires in Chile have claimed the lives of 112 people and left entire neighbourhoods in ruins in what is being seen as the country’s worst blaze on record.
The fires that started on Friday have scorched 110,000 acres of area and spread to the outer edges of popular tourist towns like Vina del Mar and Valparaiso.
More dead bodies were recovered on Sunday, taking the death toll, initially reported at 51 on Saturday, to 112 now, according to Chile’s Legal Medical Service.
Firefighters are struggling to control the intensifying blaze as the Chilean government has declared a state of emergency.
Interior minister Carolina Toháoha, the weekend blazes have been “without a doubt” the deadliest fire event in Chile’s history.
With hundreds still missing, she said the death toll would “reach much higher figures” in the coming hours.
“It is Chile as a whole that suffers and mourns our dead,” president Gabriel Boric said in a televised speech to the nation.
“We are facing a tragedy of very great magnitude.”
A well-known botanical garden established in 1931 was devastated by the flames on Sunday
Authorities have urged thousands of people to evacuate their homes and have imposed curfews in the cities most heavily impacted by the fires to free up routes and allow emergency vehicles to reach affected areas.
Shocking images of hundreds of cars burned by the fires, which have devastated entire neighbourhoods, are circulating on social media, according to the report.
There are 161 active fires across the country, according to Alvaro Hormazabal, director of the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service.
The fires came as record-high temperatures hit the South American country due to an El Niño weather pattern that has caused high temperatures and triggered forest fires in several Latin American countries including Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina.–Bernam.
Meanwhile, the whole of the southern hemisphere is seeing hotter summers this year after experiencing mild winters in 2023 while northern hemisphere burned in record breaking heatwaves.