Media reports, citing Chilean authorities, reported on Sunday that devastating wildfires tearing through swathes of Chile have killed more than 100 people.  

CNN reported yesterday that the Chilean National Disaster Prevention and Response Service (SENAPRED) said at least 112 people have died so far.  Officials reportedly also said that 32 bodies have been identified, 38 autopsies have been conducted, and 10 bodies are ready to be delivered to relatives.

SENAPRED was cited a saying on Sunday that there are currently 161 active fires burning across the country.

SENAPRED Director Álvaro Hormazábal reportedly told CNN affiliate CNN Chile yesterday that firefighters had controlled 102 of those fires but are still battling 40 others.  Nineteen wildfires are under currently observation, Hormazábal was quoted as saying.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric declared a state of emergency as coastal cities like Viña del Mar and Valparaiso choked in smoke.  Residents living in central regions were also forced to evacuate their homes.  Speaking at a press conference held after visiting affected areas on Sunday, Boric reportedly raised fears that the death toll would “increase significantly.”

Burned vehicles in Quilpue; photo / Rodrigo Arangua/ AFP / Getty Images

CNN noes that in a televised statement on Saturday, Boric said that the defense ministry would deploy more military units to affected areas, with all necessary resources made available.

He declared Monday and Tuesday as days of national mourning for fire victims.

Climate change and the El Nino weather phenomenon (El Nino is a natural climate phenomenon marked by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator, which occurs on average every 2-7 years) are reportedly driving forces behind an increasingly warm planet, scientists say, making events like heatwaves and wildfires more likely.

Wildfires have intensified around the globe, providing a stark reminder of how the climate crisis is upending lives and inflicting billions of dollars a year in damage.  And it will only get worse, according to experts.  “Uncontrollable and devastating wildfires are becoming an expected part of the seasonal calendars in many parts of the world,” the UN Environment Program said in a report published in 2022.

The number of extreme wildfire events is expected to increase up to 14% by 2030, according to the UN report.  By 2050, the increase will climb to 30%.