Chile detains 10 accused of starting deadly wildfires

7 February 2023

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CHILE – Death toll from blazes rises to 24 with 26 people hospitalized 800 homes destroyed in catastrophic fires burning in country

Chilean authorities have detained 10 people accused of causing deadly wildfires, a government official said.

The blazes, fanned by severe heat and dry winds, have led to 24 deaths, and those who started them potentially face harsh consequences, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Manuel Monsalve, said in a press conference Sunday.

“The intentional starting of fires will be criminally prosecuted by the government,” Monsalve said. “The law is especially harsh regarding the crime of arson. The sentences range from five years and one day to 20 years. They are high penalties, and we’ll pursue the highest penalties the law allows.”

Chile is working to contain 51 of 260 wildfires currently burning, with 28 of them considered significant, Monsalve said. The blazes have destroyed 800 homes, and 26 people are hospitalized with serious burns.

Chile President Gabriel Boric declared a state of catastrophe in a third region Saturday and requested assistance from neighboring countries. Spain sent 50 members of its Military Emergency Unit to help control the blazes, according to a tweet from Chile’s government. Colombian President Gustavo Petro said he would send a plane with experts and materials.

The fires are the latest example of extreme weather fueled by climate change, with temperatures in parts of Chile reaching record highs in recent days.

“The climate crisis is burning Chile,” Petro said in a tweet.

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