Chile extended an emergency declaration to yet another region on Saturday as firefighters struggled to control dozens of raging wildfires that have claimed at least 22 lives amid a scorching heat wave that has broken records.
The government declared a state of catastrophe in the La Araucanía region, which is south of Ñuble and Biobío, two central-southern regions where the emergency declaration had already been issued. The measure allows for greater cooperation with the military.
At least 22 people have died in connection to the fires and 554 have been injured, including 16 in serious condition, according to Interior Minister Carolina Tohá. The death toll is likely to rise as Tohá said there are unconfirmed reports of at least 10 people missing.
Sixteen of the deaths took place in Biobío, five in La Araucanía and one in Ñuble.
The deaths included a Bolivian pilot who died when a helicopter that was helping combat the flames crashed in La Araucanía. A Chilean mechanic also died in the crash.
Over the past week, fires have burned through an area equivalent to what is usually burned in an entire year, Tohá said in a news conference.
The fires come at a time of record high temperatures.
“The thermometer has reached points that we have never known until now,” Tohá said.