The governor of Valparaíso denounced that the devastating fires in Chile were intentional

Residents push a car away from the flames of a fire in Villa Alemana, Valparaíso, on February 2, 2024 (Andres Pina, Aton Chile via AP)

The Chilean authorities continue to redouble their efforts to assist the thousands of affected due to the devastating fires. While reconstruction efforts continue, Authorities no longer have doubts that the fire was intentionally set.

“The issue of intentionality is manifest (…) we would have to be very naive to think that the fire had spontaneous characteristics,” said the governor of Valparaíso this Monday, Rodrigo Mundacaafter one of the deadliest accidents in recent decades in Chilewith 131 people dead.

“The intentionality today is completely confirmed, In fact, there is a dedicated prosecutor (in the investigation) (…) it will have to be Justice that resolves individual and collective responsibilities, but no one believes that this is a group of arsonists who are burning our free will. territory and our communities,” the authority stressed.

This Monday, in addition, the Reconstruction Committee was established, in charge of “coordinating the efforts of this arduous and difficult task,” according to what the President of the Republic stated over the weekend, Gabriel Boric. The committee will be headed by the Minister of Social Development, Javiera Toro.

Rodrigo Mundaca, governor of Valparaíso (EFE /Elvis González)

The head of state acknowledged this Sunday that the reconstruction phase due to the fires in the Valparaíso region “is not going to be an easy process” and estimated that Rebuilding everything that the fire burned “will take a couple of years.”

“We will not generate false expectations. “This is a very big task,” said the president in a press conference from the Sausalito stadium in Viña del Mar, one of the areas most affected by the fires, about 120 kilometers northwest of the capital.

In addition, he stressed that the reconstruction will be carried out “with the support and participation of neighbors and municipalities,” and added that among the works that will be launched in the coming days there are the collection of 50,000 tons of debris.

“We are going to have more machines, especially to work at night so that there is more State presence,” he said.

The fires, which especially affected four communes in the Buenos Aires region – Viña del Mar, Linares, Villa Alemana and Quilpué – have burned more than 10,000 hectares and have left, according to official figures that are not yet closed, about 12,000 homes affected.

Gabriel Boric asked not to forget the Chileans affected by the fires (EFE/ Adriana Thomasa)

Of these, 1,930 have already begun to receive the first state financial aid and next week it is estimated that 6,500 more bonuses will be delivered.

Regarding the search and identification of the bodies, one of the most complex tasks that has progressed more slowly due to the difficulties in recognizing the corpses, the Legal Medical Service (SML) reported that the number of those identified increased to 79 people.

The fires started on February 2 in the morning and spread quickly due to the strong gusts of wind that ran in the area that afternoon and the extreme temperatures of the last week. The high population density in difficult-to-access terrain, added to the prolonged drought in Chile, made extinction tasks difficult.

It took firefighters five days to control the deadliest fires in recent history in Chile. Without a relocation plan, residents are resettling in devastated areas.

The Chilean flag flies near the burned remains of a house in Viña del Mar (REUTERS/Sofia Yanjari)

These are some of the challenges of reconstruction.

The hills of Viña del Mar, the epicenter of the tragedy, are overpopulated. For decades, thousands of people have stayed in wooden houses that burned within minutes and contributed to the spread of the fire.

The firefighters could not reach several points due to the lack of roads or were stuck in their machines in the narrow accesses, on whose banks rows of charred vehicles remained.

According to the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf), 99.7% of fires are started intentionally or recklessly.

During the emergency, there were several simultaneous outbreaks, which increases suspicion that criminal hands may have been involved. In the last 20 years, intentional fires increased by 23%, according to official figures.

(With information from EFE and AFP)

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