At least 22 people have died in more than 250 forest fires in central Chile, where an intense heat wave is raging, according to a new rising toll released by authorities on Saturday.
There are also 554 people injured, 16 of them seriously, Interior Minister Carolina Toha said.
Of 251 active fires, 80 are out of control, said the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service (Senapred).
A previous report on Saturday reported 16 dead, against 13 on Friday. Among them, a pilot of Bolivian nationality and a mechanic of Chilean nationality who crashed on Friday in a helicopter which was fighting fires, according to Senapred.
Faced with this situation, the Chilean President Gabriel Boric declared a state of disaster in the region of La Araucania, after adopting a similar measure for those of Nuble and Biobio.
Such a measure notably allows the authorities to restrict the free movement of people and to call in the army when they deem it necessary.
President Boric interrupted his vacation on Friday to go to the city of Concepcion, 510 km south of the capital Santiago.
“We will not leave you alone,” the president promised on Twitter to the Chileans affected.
These fires are occurring during an extreme heat wave with temperatures approaching 40C, raising authorities’ fears of a disaster like the one in 2017.
That year, a gigantic forest fire caused 11 deaths, some 6,000 victims, destroyed more than 1,500 homes and ravaged 467,000 hectares of land.
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