Chile Forest Fires: Curfew Declared, 24 Dead as Large Areas Reduced to Ash, Evacuated

Last Updated: February 10, 2023, 08:30 IST

A firefighter works during a wildfire in Quillon, Chile (Image: Reuters)

One of the primary reasons that the curfew was declared was because widespread looting had begun in

Chile on Thursday announced a nighttime curfew in south-central regions where forest fires have raged for more than a week, leaving at least 24 people dead.

The midnight-to-5.00 am curfew will come into effect on Friday in 28 municipalities in the hard-hit regions of Biobio, Nuble and La Araucania, said Biobio military chief Jorge Keitel.

The move seeks to prevent theft and looting in the affected regions while some 5,600 Chilean firefighters, backed by experts from Mexico, Colombia, Spain and Argentina among other countries, battle 90 priority fires out of 323 still active.

The efforts suffered a setback Thursday when a US Ten Tanker sent to Chile to help suffered mechanical issues for the second time this week.

The plane can dump some 36,000 litres of water.

The flames are being fueled by temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in many regions amid severe drought conditions, and officials fear the blazes could spread to other regions.

The fires have left 24 people dead and more than 2,000 injured, and destroyed more than 300,000 hectares (741,316 acres) of forest.

More than 1,200 homes have been destroyed, leaving more than 5,500 people homeless, according to official reports.

About 20 people have been arrested on suspicion of having set some of the fires.

On Wednesday, President Gabriel Boric said a curfew was necessary “to guarantee the safety of people affected by the emergency.”

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General Ruben Castillo, the military chief for La Araucania, said Thursday the curfew implied restrictions to public transport, “especially in Malleco province.”

That is one of the provinces most affected by clashes between state forces and groups from the Mapuche Indigenous community.

Fighting for the restoration of ancestral lands seized by the Chilean state more than a century ago and now in the hands of logging companies, the Mapuche have been accused of carrying out arson attacks on private property.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)