Winds fan the flames of Chile’s wildfires
By Adriana Thomassa
Tome, Chile, Feb 8 (EFE).- Five days after wildfires first threatened this small town in the central Chilean region of Biobio, residents of Tome awoke Wednesday to say the flames creeping closer to their homes, driven by brisk winds.
“We went to the forest to look, to see if we could help in some way and when I entered the forest I saw the fire explode. I rushed home,” a vineyard owner told EFE.
“I entered the wine cellar,” he continued. “And I saw that it (the fire) was already on the second floor and there was nothing more to do.”
“I had to jump, I couldn’t go out the door,” he said, still shaken by the experience.
In the past, volunteer firefighter Valentin Aravena told EFE, “there were fires of this intensity, but they were shorter, a maximum of one day. But now it’s almost the fifth day. I don’t believe there has been any progress, improvement.”
The Chilean government said that the fires have destroyed some 1,200 homes, most of them in Biobio, leaving 24 people dead and more than 1,000 others injured.
The majority of the 84 blazes classified as uncontrolled are raging in the vicinity of Santa Juana, Biobio, where President Gabriel Boric traveled Wednesday.
Making his fourth visit to Biobio since the start of the crisis, Boric appealed for solidarity, threatened fines for property-owners who refuse to allow firefighters to draw water from wells and swimming pools and said that he was considering imposing a state of emergency to combat looting.
At the same time, the central government has launched programs to aid farmers and ranchers in the affected areas and is providing aid to families who have lost their homes.
“Since this Tuesday we are distributing in Santa Juana assistance to small-scale ranching, also to family farmers,” Agriculture Secretary Esteban Valenzuela said.
“Second, we are deploying the INDAP irrigation program to help in the repositioning of irrigation systems. Third, we are doing the survey of the damage done by those criminals who caused the fires,” he said. EFE at-jm/dr