Several firefighters are among the dead.
“We have never seen anything on this scale, never in the history of Chile,” President Michelle Bachelet said earlier this week, after her administration declared a state of emergency. “The truth is that the forces are doing everything humanly possible and will continue until they can contain and control the fires.”
Reporting from Rio de Janeiro, NPR’s Philip Reeves said Thursday that hundreds of thousands of acres have been destroyed in the southern and central parts of the country and that an entire town was incinerated. “Reports say flames ripped through a place called Santa Olga, burning down its kindergarten, post office and about 1,000 homes,” he said.
At least one body was recovered from the ashes in Santa Olga, according to Deutsche Welle, and about 6,000 residents fled the city as the flames moved in.
“This is an extremely serious situation — of horror, a nightmare without an end,” the mayor of the coastal city of Constitucion told the German broadcaster. “Everything burned.”
While fires are common in Chile at this time of year, “these have taken on disastrous proportions, thanks to prolonged drought, strong winds and unusually hot weather,” Phil said.
In addition to local weather patterns, which themselves are shaped by global climate change, a review of Chile’s wildfires published in November in the journal Global and Planetary Change warned the “pattern, frequency and intensity” of wildfires in the country “has grown at an alarming rate” in recent years, in part because of intensive forest management practices that led to a large amount of flammable fuel in the country’s forests.
As of Thursday morning, Chile’s National Emergency Bureau was tracking 100 active fires covering about 920 square miles, 30 of which have been contained, according to The New York Times.
The newspaper reported: