Chile wildfires spread claiming more lives

At least 22 people have been killed and 554 injured, the government says

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Chile extended an emergency declaration to another region on Saturday as firefighters struggled to control dozens of raging wildfires that have killed 22 people amid a scorching heatwave that has broken records.

The government declared a state of catastrophe in the La Araucania region, which is south of Nuble and Biobío, two central-southern regions already under the state of emergency. The measure allows for greater co-operation with the military.

As well as the 22 deaths, at least 554 have been injured, including 16 in a serious condition, according to Interior Minister Carolina Toha. The death toll is likely to rise as Ms Toha highlighted unconfirmed reports of at least 10 people missing.

Sixteen of the deaths took place in Biobío, five in La Araucanía and one in Nuble.

The deaths included a Bolivian pilot, who died when a helicopter that was helping combat the flames crashed in La Araucanía. A Chilean mechanic also died in the crash.

Over the past week, fires have burnt through an area equivalent to what is usually burnt in an entire year, Ms Toha said.

The fires come at a time of record high temperatures.

“The thermometer has reached points that we have never known until now,” Ms Toha said.

As of Saturday morning, 251 wildfires were burning throughout Chile, of which 151 were under control, the country’s Senapred disaster agency said.

Chile is requesting international help to assist with firefighting efforts.

Updated: February 05, 2023, 9:01 AM