Hundreds Missing as Death Toll Skyrockets

( – With well over a hundred lives lost and hundreds more people still missing, Chile is reeling after a string of catastrophic wildfires. Quilpé and Villa Alemana, two additional communities in the Valparaíso area, have been severely affected by the powerful flames burning on the eastern outskirts of Viña del Mar since February 2.

On Sunday, February 4, when smoke engulfed many coastal communities, President Gabriel Boric declared an emergency. From above, views of Viña del Mar reveal charred streets and stacks of demolished houses.

El Niño, a natural climate fluctuation with a worldwide heating effect, has collided with the long-term trend of global warming, leading to increasingly intense and frequent droughts and heat waves, fueling the devastating fires in Chile.

Over the past ten years, Chile has been facing a “mega-drought,” the country’s longest in over a thousand years. This has caused water sources to become increasingly scarce and has dried out the environment, making it more flammable. Unusually high temperatures have been sweltering the nation as well.

Relentless heat, dryness, and strong winds have created ideal circumstances for severe and deadly fires, according to a January research published in Nature. Wildfire activity in Chile has increased dramatically. Wildfires have consumed over two million acres nationwide in the past ten years.

The flames destroyed Several neighborhoods on the unstable slopes to the east of Viña del Mar, a famous beach resort. Boric stated that the fires spread more rapidly due to the dry weather, high winds, and low humidity.

Public facilities in Viña del Mar and Santiago, the capital city, are functioning as depots. People are collecting supplies such as food, water, candles, and shovels to be given to the victims of the catastrophic fires. So that rescue personnel can move around more efficiently, the police have requested that those in Viña del Mar and the neighboring communities of Villa Alemana and Quilpé, whom the flames have not impacted, remain at home.

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