Over 180,000 hectares of land have been affected in central Chile over the past week. Currently, there are 35 "out-of-control" fires that firefighters and aircrafts are battling to extinguish. Chile's arid, 40 degree weather along with strong winds make it the perfect setting for wildfires to spread in. So far, 256 people have been displaced from their homes while 4 firefighters tragically died rescuing civilians and trying to put out the flames.
The Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, declared a state of emergency and has requested for international assistance. France, Peru, Mexico, and the US has stepped in to help douse the flames including a Boeing-747 which is capable of carrying 73,000 litres of water. Despite this, there is still a great need for more firefighting aircraft.
Recently, the incidence of wildfires of Chile has increased with 6,700 occurrences from 2015-2016, whereas the average incidence from 1990-2000 was 5,200 occurrences a year. NASA captured some images of the fires in Chile on satellite:
Plumes of smoke shown along on the coastline (active burning shown in red)
Chile is no stranger to naturally-occuring environmental disasters. In 2010, Chile experienced an 8.8 magnitude earthquake causing massive destruction along its path 300km south of Santiago. This earthquake triggered a number of tsunamis, further destroying coastal areas. Active volcanoes are also on constant watch while geysers should be steered clear of (hot vapors and corrosive water).
Emergency response teams are prepared for these kinds of events however the magnitude of some, like the 2010 earthquake and current wildfires, are hard to manage. Hopefully international governments will continue to step in and help Chile combat these wildfires.