AMERICA/CILE - Christian community in solidarity with victims of forest fires that have so far caused 26 deaths, 1,000 injured, 1,800 homeless

Tuesday, 7 February 2023 natural disasters   local churches  

Concepcion (Agenzia Fides) - "Dozens of people have died, hundreds injured, incalculable material losses, life's work turned to ashes, many dreams shattered and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost": this is the partial result of the fires that have affected the population in southern Chile, in the words of the Archbishop of Concepcion, Monsignor Fernando Chomali, Vice President of the Chilean Bishops' Conference, published by the newspaper La Estrella de Concepción.
According to experts, many of these fires is thought to be arson, caused by the hand of man. "We all hope that they will be identified and judged accordingly," says Monsignor Chomali. "A fire is devastating, causes much damage and fear, and requires years of work to recover what has been lost. The loss of human life is irreparable." The Archbishop therefore calls on Chilean society and the government to prepare themselves to face the summer, and above all it is necessary to organize themselves in another way "to prevent unscrupulous people from doing so much damage."
According to Chile's National Disaster Prevention and Response Service (Senapred), the wave of forest fires that has hit south-central Chile since last week has left at least 26 people dead and more than 1,000 injured. Nationwide, 260 fires are active: in 51 cases firefighters are fighting against the flames, 140 are under control, and the remainder are under observation. High temperatures, strong winds and low humidity have made the work of firefighters more complex. Chilean President Gabriel Boric chaired a coordination meeting yesterday with Interior Minister Carolina Toha and Undersecretary Manuel Monsalve to address the emergency.
The mayor of the city of Concepcion, capital of the Bio Bio region, one of the hardest hit by the flames, said that most of the people who died in the fires did not want to leave their homes, despite the evacuation order, because they were concerned about thefts that could occur in homes left unattended. Therefore, the mayor called for the police force, along with the fire department, to ensure the safety of citizens' properties. A provisional toll reports more than 800 homes destroyed by the flames, with at least 1,800 homeless people housed in emergency shelters. Some people have been detained by authorities as they are believed to be responsible for the fires.
In the face of this dramatic situation, Caritas Chile has launched the National Campaign "Let's face this catastrophe TOGETHER," which raises funds to respond to the multiple humanitarian needs that are causing the fires, working in a network with diocesan teams, public organizations and civil society. In addition to emergency relief, through the funds raised, one also wants to support the recovery and reconstruction that will follow.
Several parishes and communities in the Archdiocese of Concepcion have come to the aid of those affected by the forest fires by organizing collections of food, water, personal belongings, personal hygiene products, medicines, tools, and construction materials. The cooperation of volunteers has multiplied in recent days. The Auxiliary Bishop of Concepción, Monsignor Bernardo Álvarez, thanked the communities for the response and invited them to "continue to encourage us in a spirit of solidarity, of true Christian fraternity, with our brothers and sisters who have suffered these great tragedies of the fires". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 7/2/2023)