At least six people, including four firefighters and two policemen, have been killed while battling massive forest fires in central Chile. The country's Interior Minister, Mario Fernandez Baeza, confirmed the deaths late on Wednesday (January 25).
Over 4,000 firefighters have been deployed to Chile's central-south region after the wildfires, the worst in the country's history, ravaged swathes of forests and destroyed more than 100 vineyards in the southern areas. A Boeing 747-400 Super Tanker, taken on loan from the United States, was sent to the affected region on Wednesday to control the fire.
"We have never seen something of this size, never in Chile's history. And the truth is the (firefighting) forces are doing everything that is humanly possible and will continue to do so until the fires are contained and controlled," Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was quoted as saying by Reuters as she visited Maule, the region worst-hit by the inferno.
Forest fires are not uncommon in Chile considering its hot summers. However, after nearly a decade of draught along with record-high temperatures in the region, the conditions have become dry, triggering massive wildfires. Emergency has also been declared in the country.
Reuters reports said around 85 separate fires were recorded in Chile as on Wednesday and they have affected 69,500 acres, twice the size of New York City.
International assistance has begun pouring in from France, Mexico, Peru, besides the US, to help extinguish the fire. The wildfire has reportedly swept through forested hills and has destroyed towns bringing down homes, industries besides the renowned vineyards.