At least 64 people have been reportedly killed by forest fires in Chile’s Valparaíso region.
According to AFP, Chile’s president Gabriel Boric made this disclosure on Sunday.
Gabriel Boric declared a state of emergency and said he would make “all necessary resources” available to tackle the situation.
People told to evacuate homes as quickly possible with curfews declared in most heavily affected cities
Firefighters wrestled with huge forest fires on Sunday that broke out in central Chile two days earlier.
Officials have extended curfews in cities most heavily affected by the blazes and said at least 64 people were killed.
The fires have been burning with the highest intensity around the city of Viña del Mar, where a botanical garden founded in 1931 was destroyed by the flames.
Reports revealed that no fewer than 1,600 people were left without homes.
Flames and smoke on the eastern edge of the city have trapped some people in their homes. Officials said 200 people have been reported missing in Viña del Mar and the surrounding area. The city of 300,000 people is a popular beach resort.
The governor of the Valparaíso region, Rodrigo Mundaca on Sunday noted that he believed some of the fires could have been intentionally caused, replicating a theory that had also been mentioned on Saturday by the president, Gabriel Boric.
“These fires began in four points that lit up simultaneously,” Mundaca said. “As authorities we will have to work rigorously to find who is responsible.”
The fires around Viña del Mar began in mountainous forested areas that are hard to reach. But they have moved into densely populated neighbourhoods on the city’s periphery despite efforts by Chilean authorities to slow down the flames.
On Saturday, Boric said that unusually high temperatures, low humidity and high wind speeds were making it difficult to control the wildfires in central Chile, which have already burned through 8,000 hectares of forests and urban areas.
Officials are asking people in areas affected by the fires to evacuate their homes as quickly as possible, while those further from the fires are being told to stay indoors in order to facilitate the transit of fire engines and ambulances.
Curfews have been declared in Viña del Mar, and the neighbouring cities of Quilpé and Villa Alemana as part of an effort to prevent looting.
The fires broke out during a week of record high temperatures in central Chile. Over the past two months, the El Niño weather pattern has caused droughts and high temperatures in western South America that have also increased the risk of forest fires.