Aerial view of burned vehicles in the El Olivar commune. Javier Torres/AFP/Getty Images

Chile has declared a state of emergency as devastating wildfires sweep across the country, claiming the lives of at least 51 people, with fears that the death toll will rise, according to President Gabriel Boric. The wildfires have prompted an urgent response, with the defense ministry deploying additional military units and allocating necessary resources.

The state of emergency applies to the provinces of Marga Marga and Valparaíso, where a curfew has been enforced to facilitate emergency and logistical support. Interior Minister Carolina Tohá revealed that 92 active fires are currently burning, affecting approximately 43,000 hectares. While firefighters have gained control over 40 fires, they are still contending with 29 others.

One individual has been detained in connection to the wildfires, with reports suggesting the fire originated during welding work at the suspect’s home in Talca. Emergency crews are focusing on the port city of Valparaíso due to its proximity to urban areas, and the mayor reports that around 372 residents are missing.

Valparaíso has been severely impacted, with one fire consuming 6,800 hectares and causing damage to an estimated 1,100 homes. Authorities express significant concern as some fires are dangerously close to urban areas, posing a high risk to people, homes, and installations.

Carolina Tohá emphasized the potential for the death toll to rise, especially as authorities await confirmation from areas they have not yet accessed. At least six individuals reportedly succumbed to injuries sustained from burns while receiving hospital treatment.

As Chile grapples with this catastrophic situation, President Boric vows to deploy all necessary resources, acknowledging the urgency of the crisis and the need for a concerted effort to contain and address the wildfires.