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article imageChile: Forest fires continue causing death and devastation

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By Igor I. Solar     Jan 3, 2012 in Environment
Santiago - Wildfires persist in several regions of the country burning hundreds of homes and causing huge damage, unemployment problems and death; there are 42 active forest fires in several regions of Chile, 24 of which are out of control.
The director of the National Emergency Office, Vicente Núñez, reported that while 16 fires are already extinct, numerous active fires still remain that are affecting more than 57,000 hectares of forests in various regions of the country. The major fires are continuing their advance in the Magallanes Region (National Park Torres del Paine), and in the regions of Bio Bio and Maule in the central-south sector of the country. More than 160 homes have been completely burned, reports LaTercera.com (in Spanish).
Several inhabited areas of the Bio Bio region remain on high alert and have been declared "catastrophe zones". A 75 year old man died when his house was surrounded by fire after he refused to obey evacuation instructions.
Firefighting brigades and military personnel from several regions of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay keep fighting the flames. Approximately 2,000 men are working in the sectors affected by the fires. Strong winds and water shortages have hampered efforts to control the flames. The president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, asked yesterday for the collaboration of the United States (FEMA), Australia and Argentina, to strengthen the fight against the forest fires.
Tourism in Puerto Natales, point of entry into the Torres del Paine National Park, has been impeded for as long as the emergency situation caused by the fire continues. Hundreds of workers in hotels, restaurants and handicraft vendors have been severely affected. In other regions, Maule and Bio Bio, fires have destroyed large areas of farmland and forests. The Arauco Cellulose Company (Celco) suffered the complete destruction of one of its wood processing plants in the region of Bio Bio. About 1200 people lost their source of employment.
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