An increase in air humidity on Thursday brought good news to some of the Chilean regions that have been battling hundreds of forest fires for a week, although concern has shifted to its capital Santiago, where high temperatures are expected.
The fires broke out eight days ago in the Ñuble, Biobío and La Araucanía regions, in the south-central part of the country, and have claimed the lives of 24 people, razed more than 1,200 homes and some 340,000 hectares, according to preliminary figures.
The Undersecretary of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve, specified that there are 323 active fires, of which 180 are controlled and 90 are out of control.
He anticipated that the preventive alerts for high temperatures in Ñuble and Biobío, decreed due to the possibility of new fires, will possibly be lowered. “There has been an improvement in the humidity conditions”, although “the complex situation they live in” has not changed.
“These are better news from the point of view of weather conditions to face the emergency,” he added.
However, he indicated that fire risk situations due to high temperatures will move to the Metropolitan Region, where the Chilean capital is located, and to the regions of Maule and O’Higgins, 270 and 125 kilometers to the south.
The incessant fight against fires has also left examples of the best and the worst in people’s behavior. Firefighters highlighted, as an example, a minor who took them in his boat to fight a forest fire near his home, in Los Ríos, 850 kilometers to the south.
“Luca, a minor under 13 years of age, transferred firefighters by barge across the Futa River, who did not have access to his home, which was threatened by fire,” he published on social networks on Thursday. He also uploaded a photo of the minor as he paddles out carrying four firefighters in his boat.
The day before, another child took center stage on social networks. Daniel Sandoval posted a photo of himself holding a sign that reads “pool water here, get down.” The little boy thus reacted to the complaint of a helicopter pilot who had questioned the attitude of a man who denied them the water from his pool to launch it on the fires.
Amid the concern, there have also been cases of price gouging. Alexis Avendaño lives in San Jorge, near Santa Juana, 550 kilometers to the south, and denounced that the hoses to supply water now cost triple. His, at 3,000 meters, melted in the fire.
“The main thing right now is water and the usurious hardware stores of Santa Juana are charging triple the real value,” he criticized. According to his calculations, 100 meters of hose cost 60,000 pesos (75 dollars), now they have risen to 180,000 (225 dollars).
Meanwhile, the three regions declared in a state of catastrophe were left with a curfew between midnight and 05:00 in force in 28 communes. One of them is Hualqui, where El Äguila is located, 530 kilometers south of the Chilean capital, which was preventively evacuated the day before due to the proximity of the flames. The residents initially resisted leaving their homes for fear that their belongings would be stolen, as has happened in other places.
The curfew is intended to facilitate evacuations, according to the explanation given by the government on Wednesday, by increasing police or military patrols to reassure residents who leave their homes.
Source: VOA Español