A large forest fire in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile has affected more than 5,700 hectares of land; the emergency has forced the closure of the park, several hotels and the evacuation of about 400 tourists.
At this time the fire is deemed out of control due to bad weather conditions in the region (strong winds over 100 km/h). The ONEMI (National Emergency Office) is developing plans to expand the contingent of firefighters working on the blaze.
Subject to weather conditions, a Twin Otter aircraft will survey the area to strengthen and direct the work of personnel, helicopters and other specialized aircraft battling the fire. "Until yesterday there were 120 men working on the site. Today will double the personnel to 237 people including staff from the National Forest Service, the Army and the help of firefighters coming from Argentina," said ONEMI director, Vicente Núñez.
"The winds are very strong, with intensities of 110 km/h, which will hinder the operations. The air combat can be affected by the winds. Fortunately, cloudy skies are expected today, and it is likely that by the end the day we may have some rain." said Nunez suggesting the possibility that weather conditions could help to battle the fire in one of the major national parks in Chile.
Roderich Barría Quintana
View of the forest fire at Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. (Screengrab: Photo of R. Barría Q. Radio Cooperativa).
The fire at Torres del Paine National Park began on Tuesday near a hiking trail and according to Rodrigo Hinzpeter, the Chilean Minister of the Interior, "it was very likely caused by human negligence". Some 400 tourists, mainly foreigners, have been evacuated from the park.
Torres del Paine National Park is located in the Chilean Patagonia, about 2,000 kilometres south of Santiago de Chile, and includes a mountain range (Cordillera del Paine), glaciers, lakes and several rivers. The park has large indigenous forests rich in endemic flora and fauna. Torres del Paine is a preferred destination for thousands of domestic and international tourists that visit the region each year.
Calceolaria uniflora, a beautiful plant that grows in the mountains of the Chilean Patagonia. It grows only about 10 cm. tall and is one of the endemic plants that inhabit Torres del Paine National Park.