A wildfire that is believed to have been started deliberately turned Chile’s skies red and forced citizens to flee their homes.
The Valpraiso region was engulfed by flames for hours. According to authorities, the fires have blazed through 400 hectares of forest. At least ten houses have been caught by the flames, and some 25 000 residents and hundreds of firefighters were deployed to battle the flames.
According to various sources including a local government official, the fires are believed to have been started deliberately. Local rumors suggest that the fires were started deliberately by a construction company after being denied access to encroach land property.
A Chinook helicopter that was carrying tonnes of water was used to extinguish the fire from above. The destroyed property includes four houses, six cabins at a recreational center, and two warehouses.
People who were evacuated were placed temporarily in a school building while a ‘safe zone’ was set up in the municipal stadium. Citizens that had been self-isolating after coming into contact with someone with coronavirus were instructed to go to local schools that were designated quarantine zones.
This is not, however, the first time the area has been destructed by the wildfires. In January 2017, Chile witnessed one of the worst wildfires which caused major devastation throughout the country, killing at least 11 people. In 2019, 200 homes in the port city of Valparaiso were destroyed by wildfires on Christmas Day.
Despite the devastation caused by the fires, they have received little to no coverage in international news and media. Citizens and Diaspora Chileans have expressed contempt over the blatant ignorance of the fires.
chile is BURNING and i dont see anyone talking about it pic.twitter.com/NUkK7JF034
— mai ♡'s ashe | LOVES NIKI NIHACHU (@dreamnctfound) January 16, 2021
Instead of spreading the word about the fires and calling for aid, people on social media believed the pictures to be aesthetic and used them to promote songs. The insensitivity towards the matter speaks volumes.
THIS is what Latinos mean when we say no one gives a SHIT about us. when is the US everyone drops everything to spread the word and help out but when it’s Latin America people can make edits of devastating forest fires and call it “aesthetic” and use it to promo songs. pic.twitter.com/Y4ODdMftiQ
— liz ♛ your local big sister (@netherportal_) January 18, 2021
Forest fires such as the one in Chile have both short-term as well as long-term impacts. Dozens of citizens been displaced from their houses as fires blaze through the inhabited parts of the country. Acres of forests have been destroyed and countless animals are caught in the flames.
Research has proven that the smoke from fires can choke nearby cities months after the fires. Fires can release more pollution into the air. Air quality is significantly poor and creates hazes in cities farther away. Reduced air quality can have longer-term health effects such as penetration of lung membranes and damaged respiratory system. Short-term effects include coughing, shortness of breath, and exacerbation of asthma attacks.
A bigger cause of concern is that the toxicity of these smoke particles appears to increase the further they get from the site of a fire. The particle undergoes chemical reactions as they are carried in the wind. This causes them to “age” in a process known as oxidation. It converts the particles into highly reactive compounds that have an even greater capacity to damage cells and tissue than when they were first produced.
The aforementioned effects are not even a quarter of the devastation that is caused by wildfires. The insensitive and rather ignorant response to the Chilean fires is worrying because the world is already struggling with wildfires that are causing catastrophic effects and aiding environmental damage. In addition to stealing hundreds of people’s livelihoods. It is necessary to draw attention to the fires in Chile so that the real culprits face the punishment. More importantly, though, governments need to be more pro-active to prevent such catastrophes from re-occurring.
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