Chilean fires being mopped up

Friday 3 Feb 2017

 
As Chilean authorities battle the historic blazes that have taken 11 lives, burned over 1,000 homes and wiped an entire town off the map, the theories about who may be to blame have spread as quickly as the wildfires themselves. The fires have consumed over 379,000 hectares (937,000 acres) in recent days, and cost Chile's forestry industry $350 million in losses.

Forest fires are a regular feature of Chile's hot, arid summers, but a nearly decade-long drought combined with historically high temperatures have created tinder-dry conditions. Reuters were reporting earlier this week that Authorities were saying the worst was over, but firefighters, aided by helicopters and airplanes, were still battling 61 fires as of Monday.

Amid signs not all the fires were accidental, conspiracy theories have abounded as to their origin, amplified by social media. Ten people were in jail awaiting trial on suspicion they lit some of the fires, although the possible motives were unclear. President Michelle Bachelet said the Justice Department was investigating to determine "who has been causing the fires in our nation, in those cases where there is malice and those cases where there is negligence."

Chile's forestry industry asked for calmer heads to prevail as it also found itself on the defensive. "We have seen many videos and photos on Twitter of things that are two to three years old and are shown as if they were happening now ... you also hear things like (forestry) companies are causing the fires themselves to collect insurance. That is absurd," industry group CORMA said. For further coverage, click here.

Source: Reuters

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