SANTIAGO – Firefighters from Mexico and Argentina arrived this Friday in Chile to help fight the most devastating forest fires in the nation’s history, which have taken the lives of about 10 people.
In the coming days fire brigades from Portugal, France, Peru, Brazil and Spain, along with additional aircraft, will also be coming to the rescue.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said the international firefighting contingent means that another 400 people will join the thousands of Chilean firefighters and military personnel who have been combating the flames for more than a week.
The blaze has shown no signs of letting up and there are currently 119 active fires throughout Chilean territory, of which 65 are being dealt with, 53 are under control and one can be considered extinguished, according to the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf) in its latest report.
Fires are raging in an area covering more than 360,000 hectares (890,000 acres) between the Coquimbo and Araucania regions, though the situation is most dangerous and damaging in the regions of O’Higgins, Maule and BioBio.
Coordination of international aid has been stepped up over the past few hours and this Friday the first group of Mexican and Argentine firefighters arrived to join the 30 Colombian firefighters already working at putting out the flames in the BioBio region.
More fire brigades are expected in the coming hours from Mexico and Argentina, plus some 50 firefighters from Portugal and another 50 Spanish volunteers.
Brazil has also announced that it will send aid and on Monday the arrival of 60 French firefighters is expected, the Chilean president said.
As for aircraft to deal with the emergency, Bachelet said that 46 planes and helicopters are currently operating in the burning areas and announced that more aircraft have been leased, such as a Spanish ACO reconnaissance airplane already in operation.
Final details are also being prepared for the arrival of an enormous tanker aircraft capable of launching 42 tons of water, offered by the Russian government.
That aircraft, however, will need time to arrive, since it takes 32 hours to make the flight from Russia, which includes two stopovers.
Meanwhile the Supertanker airplane, the largest of its kind in the world, carried out its third day of work and dumped several tanks of water on critical points in the regions of Coquimbo, north of Santiago, and Maule, south of the capital.
While emergency management agencies continued fighting the flames, the government announced that the awarding of bonuses and subsidies is now underway for the thousands affected by the tragedy.