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Death toll in Chile forest fires rises to 16: official – International News News – Report by AFR

The death toll in forest fires raging through southern Chile has risen overnight to 16, officials said Saturday.

That raised the number of deaths by three from the toll announced late Friday. 

Eleven of the deaths were in the town of Santa Juana, in Concepcion province, authorities said earlier. 

The fires, sparked by a devastating heat wave, have threatened several rural towns, destroying at least 88 homes and sweeping through 47,000 hectares (116,000 acres) of forest, officials said. 

At least 24 people have been injured, according to the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service. 

It said there were 251 active fires, 80 of them out of control.

Chile earlier declared a state of disaster in several central-southern areas including the Nuble and Biobio regions — allowing extra resources to be rushed to the area — but fires have also affected the Maule and La Araucania regions.

The dead included two crew members of a helicopter fighting fires who were killed in a crash Friday afternoon, officials said.

One firefighter has died and at least eight have been injured while battling the blazes.

In all, some 2,300 firefighters and 75 aircraft have been deployed in the region.

President Gabriel Boric suspended his holiday to visit the affected area.

The heatwave, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), has created fears of a repeat of 2017, when widespread fires in the same region left 11 people dead and destroyed 1,500 homes.

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