A relentless series of intense wildfires continues to ravage central Chile, leaving at least 46 dead and over 1,100 homes destroyed near the coastal cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. Fueled by extreme drought and record-high temperatures, the fast-spreading blazes have engulfed populated neighborhoods in spite of firefighters’ valiant efforts to contain them.
“The number of victims will surely increase in the coming hours,” said President Gabriel Boric, as emergency crews struggle to reach the most heavily affected areas. With 92 active fires burning statewide and 19 helicopters deployed, officials are racing to establish shelters while working to restore power, medical facilities, and transportation links.
While the full scale of the devastation remains unseen, shocking images have emerged from neighborhoods reduced to ashes. “I’ve worked my whole life, and now I’m left with nothing,” said Villa Independencia resident Rolando Fernández, who lost his home of 32 years. Entire blocks in the area have been completely razed, with burnt-out cars lining streets covered in ash.
The nearby resort town of Viña del Mar has also been badly affected, with at least 8,000 hectares burned. Flames threaten the edges of the city proper, with three hospitals and three nursing homes evacuated. Adding to the crisis, the fires have caused widespread blackouts by damaging power infrastructure.
With hot, dry, and windy conditions expected to continue in the days ahead, Chile faces a deepening emergency. Temperatures have neared record levels, fueling the uncontrolled spread of the blazes. The fires showcase the growing danger of climate change, which exacerbates extreme heatwaves, droughts, and fires globally.
Officials have established three shelters in the Valparaíso region thus far, but with 19 helicopters and over 450 firefighters struggling to make headway, resources are stretched perilously thin. As crews battle round-the-clock to contain the worst-affected areas, the country braces for the death toll to climb even higher.