There are currently wildfires raging near a heavily populated region in central Chile.
At least 46 individuals have perished and approximately 1,100 residences have been demolished, according to authorities on Saturday.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric stated on Saturday that the number of casualties is expected to rise in the upcoming hours.
Carolina Tohá, the Interior Minister of Chile, reported that there are currently 92 active forest fires in the central and southern regions of the country. This is due to abnormally high temperatures experienced this week.
The Valparaíso region advised residents to stay indoors to allow for easier passage of emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances.
Tohá did not provide any information regarding the individuals who were killed.
According to her statement, there have been two separate fires in the areas of Quilpué and Villa Alemana, which have collectively destroyed over 8,000 hectares (19,770 acres) since Friday. One of the fires is currently posing a threat to the popular beach destination of Viña del Mar, with some neighborhoods already experiencing significant damage.
In the community of Villa Independencia, located on the eastern outskirts of the city, numerous homes and establishments on the hill were completely demolished. The roads were littered with charred vehicles and debris while layers of ash covered the ground.
Rolando Fernández, a resident who lost his home, expressed disbelief at the events that unfolded after 32 years of living here. He recounted how he witnessed the fire starting on a nearby hill on Friday afternoon and within a short span of 15 minutes, the entire area was consumed by flames and smoke, causing everyone to flee for safety.
Fernández expressed that they have dedicated their entire life to work, but now they have nothing.
Three shelters have been set up in the Valparaíso region, and 19 helicopters and more than 450 firefighters had been brought into the area to control the blazes, Tohá said. Rescue teams were still struggling to reach the most heavily affected neighborhoods, she said.
The wildfires are currently spreading on remote mountain areas, and have impacted residential areas which were constructed in a precarious manner along the outskirts of Viña del Mar.
Authorities have also confirmed power outages caused by the fire. Tohá stated that in the Valparaíso area, four hospitals and three nursing homes for the elderly had to be evacuated. The interior minister also mentioned that two bus terminals were destroyed by the fire.
The El Niño phenomenon has resulted in dry spells and above-average temperatures in the western region of South America this year, creating a higher likelihood of wildfires. In January, over 42,000 acres of forests in Colombia were burned due to fires after a prolonged period of drought.