At least 46 individuals have lost their lives to the devastating Chile forest fires which have been raging since Friday. The nation’s President, Gabriel Boric cautioned that the death toll may continue to rise as 150 wildfires are burning at the moment, reports say.

The fires have engulfed thousands of hectares of forest, cloaking coastal cities in a dense fog of grey smoke and forcing people to evacuate their homes. Thousands of homes have already been destroyed, and the flames continue to spread.

The Chilean government has declared a state of emergency as the country grapples with the consequences of the inferno. The fires have moved into residential areas, causing residents to flee and leaving behind a trail of charred buildings and smoky ruins.

“The situation is very complex,” Boric said in a statement, highlighting the magnitude of the disaster. “We are facing one of the greatest tragedies in terms of forest fires.”

Two significant fires near Quilpué and Villa Alemana have consumed approximately 8,000 hectares (19,770 acres) starting Friday.

The coastal city of Vina del Mar, a popular tourist destination, is among the areas most severely impacted. Rescue operations face challenges in reaching all the areas hit by the disaster. Boric revealed that 40 people succumbed to the fires directly, with an additional six died from burns at the hospital.

In a nationally televised statement, President Boric warned that the death toll could worsen.

“Given the conditions of the tragedy, the number of victims is sure to increase over the next few hours,” Boric said. “The situation is really very difficult.” the President highlighted.

In Villa Independencia, a neighborhood in Viña del Mar, blocks of homes and businesses have been obliterated. Residents witnessed the destruction of vehicles and streets blanketed with ashes. Residents expressed disbelief at the rapid spread of the fire, which left them with nothing.

“I’ve been here 32 years, and never imagined this would happen,” one of the residents, Rolando Fernandez, who lost his home said.

“I’ve worked my whole life, and now I’m left with nothing,” Fernandez added.

Boric urged Chileans to cooperate with rescue workers.

“If you are told to evacuate, don’t hesitate to do it,” he said. “The fires are advancing fast and climatic conditions have made them difficult to control. There are high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity.”

To combat the Chile forest fires, the government has deployed 19 helicopters and over 450 firefighters to the Valparaíso region. Despite these efforts, reaching the hardest-hit areas remains challenging. The fires, burning in difficult-to-access mountainous terrains, have mainly impacted neighborhoods precariously situated on the outskirts of Viña del Mar.

The crisis has also led to blackouts and the evacuation of four hospitals and three nursing homes in the Valparaíso region. Additionally, two bus terminals were destroyed by the fire.

Experts link the surge in forest fires to the El Niño weather pattern, which has brought droughts and unusually high temperatures to the western part of South America. This year, the phenomenon has heightened the risk of forest fires, echoing similar events in Colombia where over 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) of forest were destroyed by fires following dry weather conditions in January.

Image Source: