We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

A resident of the Miraflores sector watches as a fire burns houses in Viña del Mar

At least 122 now dead as deadly wildfires burn through central Chile

Responders have continued to battle fires in the coastal tourist region of Valparaiso amid an intense summer heat wave.


AT LEAST 122 people have been killed in wildfires in central Chile.

The country’s state forensic agency confirmed the figure in a statement, saying that only 32 of the victims had been identified and that 40 autopsies had been carried out. 

The Interior Ministry said last night that the medical examiner’s office had received 112 dead victims, and that there are 40 fires still active in the country.

President Gabriel Boric had said he feared that the earlier toll of 112 would rise “significantly.”

Responders have continued to battle fires in the coastal tourist region of Valparaiso amid an intense summer heat wave, with temperatures soaring to 40 degrees Celsius over the weekend.

Speaking earlier in Quilpue, a devastated hillside community near Vina del Mar, Boric had said the death toll was 64 but “we know it is going to increase significantly,” adding it was the country’s deadliest disaster since a 2010 earthquake and tsunami that killed 500 people.

firefighters-work-to-combat-the-mega-fire-in-vina-del-mar-the-mega-fire-occurred-in-vina-del-mar-and-surrounding-areas-with-a-result-of-1000-burned-houses-10-missing-people-and-7000-thousand-hecta Firefighters work to combat the mega fire in Viña del Mar Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Vina del Mar mayor Macarena Ripamonti told reporters “190 people are still missing” in the city.

“Not a single house was left here,” retiree Lilian Rojas, 67, told AFP of her neighbourhood near the Vina del Mar botanical garden, which was also destroyed in the flames.

Dead victims in the streets

Boric, who met with fire survivors at a Vina del Mar hospital yesterday, has declared a state of emergency, pledging government support to help people get back on their feet.

According to national disaster service SENAPRED, nearly 26,000 hectares had been burned across the central and southern regions up until yesterday.

Supported by 31 firefighting helicopters and airplanes, some 1,400 firefighters, 1,300 military personnel and volunteers are combating the flames.

SENAPRED chief Alvaro Hormazabal, noting the dozens of blazes still burning out of control, said weather “conditions are going to continue to be complicated”.

residents-evacuate-on-a-motorcycle-as-smoke-caused-by-forest-fires-fill-the-sky-and-flames-spread-into-vina-del-mar-chile-saturday-feb-3-2024-officials-say-intense-forest-fires-burning-around-a Residents evacuate on a motorcycle as smoke caused by forest fires fill the sky and flames spread into Vina del Mar Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Authorities have imposed a curfew, while thousands in the affected areas were ordered to evacuate their homes.

In the hillsides around Vina del Mar, AFP reporters saw entire blocks of houses that were burned out.

Some of the dead were seen lying on the road, covered by sheets.


The fires, raging for days, forced authorities on Friday to close the road linking the Valparaiso region to the capital Santiago, about 1.5 hours away, as a huge mushroom cloud of smoke impaired visibility.

Images posted online from trapped motorists showed mountains in flames at the end of the famous “Route 68″ leading to the Pacific coast.

According to Interior Minister Carolina Toha, the weekend blazes have been “without a doubt” the deadliest fire event in Chile’s history.

a-person-seen-standing-among-the-rubble-due-to-the-mega-fire-that-occurred-in-the-vina-del-mar-sector-and-surrounding-areas-chile-mega-fire-in-vina-del-mar-and-different-sectors-that-affect-3-000-h A person seen standing among the rubble Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“This was an inferno,” Rodrigo Pulgar, from the town of El Olivar, told AFP.

“I tried to help my neighbour … my house was starting to burn behind us. It was raining ash.”

During his Sunday address, Pope Francis, a native of neighboring Argentina, called for prayers for the “dead and wounded in the devastating fires in Chile”.

The fires are being driven by a summer heatwave and drought affecting the southern part of South America caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, as scientists warn that a warming planet has increased the risk of natural disasters such as intense heat and fires.

© AFP 2024 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel