Photo: Pidooraz, FiresInViñadelMarChile, CC BY-SA 4.0
Chile faces its worst natural disaster since the earthquake of 2010.
Gabriel Boric, the President of Chile, reported on Sunday the 04th of February that 99 persons have died, and more than 3000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in the devastating forest fires in the Valparaiso region.
He reported that this figure "will increase significantly. It is the largest tragedy that we have lived as a country since the earthquake of the 27th of February 2010."
The explosion of the forest fires are a mixture of different factors such as summer heat reaching 40-degree, strong winds from the nearby Pacific Ocean, climate change, prolonged drought in the area, human negligence and poor and desperate families that build settlements without planning permission in areas not suitable for human habitation.
Over the past two months, the El Niño weather pattern has caused droughts and high temperatures in western South America that have also increased the risk of forest fires. Viña del Mar's famous Botanic Garden, begun in 1931, was destroyed by the fires.
The government has announced a state of emergency and a curfew from 6.00 pm in the affected region.
For many years, Columbans worked in the nearby area. We all know people who have relatives in the areas. We Columbans offer our prayers for all who died in the fires, and our condolences and support for all families who have lost loved one and their homes.
We ask for prayers for the victims of the bushfire and the Columbans in Chile.
Columban Fr Tony Coney is the Regional Director in South America.