The Chilean government released a new balance sheet, reporting that the death toll in the forest fires rose to 22 on Saturday, Feb. 4.
In addition, another 16 people are injured in critical condition.
“At this moment, we have a tough, very painful balance sheet of 22 people who have died,” said Carolina Tohá, interior minister, who also warned of rapid changes in the numbers and classified the country’s situation as “very complex.”
The government has declared a State of Constitutional Disaster Exception in the affected regions.
According to the latest report from the Interior Ministry’s National Disaster Prevention and Response Service (Senapred), the destroyed area exceeds 45,000 hectares, with 251 active fire outbreaks and only 80 being fought.
The number of refugees is close to 1,500, scattered in 30 shelters, while the total number of injured people reaches 554.
Tohá further explained that the total burned surface is equivalent to an entire year’s worth of fires in the country.
The fires are happening at the same time as a 13-year-long drought and amid a heat wave in the south, with temperatures approaching 40 °C in some areas.
The Chilean Meteorological Directorate’s forecast said the heat wave will last until Wednesday, affecting seven of the country’s 16 regions.
Because of the fires, Chilean President Gabriel Boric suspended his vacation and asked for international aid from other countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Spain, and Mexico.
In addition, Boric confirmed that he has spoken with Alberto Fernández, president of Argentina, who has assured him that brigades and machinery will be sent to fight the flames.