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The remains of burned houses are seen, following the spread of wildfires in Vina del Mar, Chile February 4, 2024.

Chile is grappling with a catastrophic forest fire crisis, claiming the lives of 112 people and leaving hundreds missing, marking the country’s worst disaster since the 2010 earthquake. President Gabriel Boric has declared a “tragedy of very great magnitude,” as the wildfires, gaining momentum since Friday, now threaten coastal cities Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. Entire neighborhoods lie in ruins, with residents searching through charred remnants of their homes, and drones capturing scorched landscapes.

Videos circulating on social media depict hillside fires encroaching on apartment blocks, shrouding urban areas in thick haze. The death toll surged from 51 on Saturday to 112, with fears it may rise further as more bodies are discovered amid the devastation. Chilean authorities imposed a 9 p.m. curfew in heavily affected regions, deploying the military to aid firefighters battling the flames. Helicopters are attempting to contain the fires from the air by dropping water.

In a televised address, President Boric declared two days of national mourning starting Monday and cautioned the nation to brace for more distressing updates. Deputy Interior Minister Manuel Monsalve reported 165 fires raging across Chile, estimating around 14,000 homes damaged in Vina del Mar and Quilpué alone.

Returning residents found their homes unrecognizable, with many losing all their possessions. Sergio Espejo, a 64-year-old welder, lamented the loss of his workshop, calling it a lifetime’s sacrifice gone in an instant.

While wildfires are common during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, the severity of these fires makes them the country’s most devastating disaster since 2010. Last year, a record heat wave resulted in 27 deaths and significant land damage. President Boric is directing funds to the worst-hit areas, emphasizing the priority of saving lives.