Highlights

  • Chile wildfires death toll reaches 131
  • 300 people are still missing
  • Water bills of 9,200 homes to be waived

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Death toll in Chile wildfires reach 131, more than 300 still missing

President Gabriel Boric during a visit to the region announced that furniture used for the 2023 Pan American Games will be donated to victims.

Death toll in Chile wildfires reach 131, more than 300 still missing

The death toll from wildfires that ravaged central Chile for several days increased to 131 on Tuesday, and more than 300 people were still missing as the blazes appeared to be burning themselves out.

The fires in Valparaiso are said to be Chile's deadliest disaster since an earthquake in 2010. Officials have suggested that some could have been intentionally set.

President Gabriel Boric during a visit to the region announced that furniture used for the 2023 Pan American Games will be donated to victims. He said the government also will forgive the water bills for 9,200 affected homes.

The fires began Friday on the mountainous eastern edge of Vina del Mar, a beach resort known for a festival that attracts the best in Latin music. Two other towns, Quilpe and Villa Alemana, also were hit hard as the fires spread quickly in dry weather and strong winds.

The Vina del Mar Festival cancelled its opening gala as a sign of mourning. Many participating singers including Alejandro Sanz, Pablo Alboran and Mana sent messages of solidarity and announced donations.

Chile's Forensic Medical Service has said many bodies recovered from the fires were in bad condition and difficult to identify, but forensic workers would take samples of genetic material from people reporting missing relatives.

“My parents' and my sisters' house burned, and my neighbours — the people who knew me when I was little — died,” said Gabriel Leiva, 46, going through debris in Vina del Mar. He said his neighbours were “family that is not of blood but of the heart”.

The United Nations in a statement offered its condolences and announced assistance. Meanwhile, Boric, in a tweet, thanked US President Joe Biden for “his important support" following the disaster.

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