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Two days of national mourning in Chile after fires which killed at least 122 people

Photo: Esteban Felix Associated Press A neighborhood ravaged by flames in Viña del Mar.

Paula Bustamante – Agence France-Presse and Axl Hernandez – Agence France-Presse Respectively in Viña del Mar and Santiago

7:42 p.m.

  • Americas

Chile will observe its second and final day of national mourning on Tuesday, in memory of the 123 victims of the devastating fires, which also left hundreds missing and left thousands homeless in the regions tourist attractions in the center and south of the country.

“I still have a lump in my throat and not so much because of the material damage (…) I lost several friends among the neighbors… That's what hurts the most,” laments Hugo de Filippi , a 34-year-old mechanic from a disaster area in the seaside resort of Viña del Mar, 120 km north of Santiago.

Surrounded by debris and charred cars, he said he was moved by the help provided by residents and student volunteers, who mobilized all day to provide water, clothes and food for the disaster victims. With shovels and brooms, some have also set up cleaning brigades to remove the debris that litters the streets, sometimes still smoking.

“It really is a disaster. Last year we were hit by a forest fire, but this is six times worse. Today we are removing the debris […], then we will bring what is missing house by house,” explains Camila Pérez, 23, who mobilized with her partner, her father and her brothers and sisters to help the victims.

“Greatest Tragedy”

The country, in the middle of the southern summer, has been confronted since Friday with the deadliest forest fires in its recent history.

According to the latest report from the authorities on Monday, at least 123 people died, all in the tourist region of Valparaiso (center). Only 32 have so far been identified.

President Gabriel Boric described these fires as “the greatest tragedy” that the country had experienced since the 2010 earthquake, followed by a tsunami, which left more than 500 dead, and assured that “Chile all whole mourns Valparaiso” by declaring two days of national mourning.

And the toll from the fires could rise further. On Sunday when the authorities reported 112 deaths, President Boric assured during a trip to Quilpué, on the outskirts of the seaside resort of Viña del Mar: “This figure will increase, we know that it will increase by meaningful way.”

In Quilpué, an AFP team was able to see entire neighborhoods charred and cars charred. There, thousands of residents were stranded for several hours on Friday as they tried to flee by car.

The mayor of the seaside resort, Macarena Ripamonti, announced on Sunday that some 190 people were missing there, and that 20,000 residents had been affected.

Night curfew

Traffic on the roads in the disaster areas of this region popular for its beaches and its wine production is made difficult by the arrival of volunteers, while firefighters and rescue teams are searching of victims.

The nighttime curfew was thus extended to Tuesday, between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., in order to facilitate the work of forensic doctors, clearing debris and attempting to restore certain public services.< /p>

Teams are still working to put out around forty fires in the country, some of which led to preventive evacuations on Sunday in Til Til, 60 km north of Santiago, and in Galvarino, 400 km south of the capital , near a large region that also saw large fires in February last year.

Since Wednesday, the temperature has been close to 40 degrees in central Chile and the capital Santiago.

This heatwave resulting from the El Niño climatic phenomenon is currently affecting the southern cone of Latin America, in the middle of summer, causing forest fires worsened by global warming. After Chile and Colombia, the heat wave threatens Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil in the coming days.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116