Aluminum and Copper

Chile battles forest fires in deadliest disaster in 14 years

Chile battles forest fires in deadliest disaster in 14 years
Authorities in Chile’s Valparaiso region extended stay-at-home orders as forest fires continue to rage into Sunday. At least 99 people have been killed in the country’s deadliest disaster since a massive earthquake in 2010.

Blazes that began on Friday spread through bushland and into populated areas on the edge of the coastal city of Viña del Mar, about 120 km (75 miles) northwest of Santiago, fed by blustering wind and high temperatures.

Power and water services have been disrupted, causing Chile’s second-largest oil refinery to halt operations. Authorities said the fires may have been intentionally lit.

“It’s evident that it was intentional” because four separate fires started simultaneously in the same forest, Valparaíso Governor Rodrigo Mundaca told reporters Sunday.

President Gabriel Boric declared a state of emergency in the Valparaiso region late Friday. The government announced a 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. curfew in major cities in the area including Viña del Mar to make it easier for rescue vehicles and equipment to get through.

The government estimates that between 3,000 and 6,000 hectares (7,413 and 14,826 acres) and 3,000 homes have been razed so far, with at least 1,600 people occupying shelters as authorities and NGOs start relief efforts. More than 300 people are still unaccounted for, according to officials.

Enap, Chile’s state-owned energy company, halted operations at its second-biggest oil refinery after wildfires caused power cuts. The Aconcagua plant on the country’s central coast was placed in a what’s known as a safe position to begin gradually restarting operations, a company official said in text messages late Saturday.

The transport of copper from the large Los Bronces mine in central Chile has been unaffected by the fires, according to operator Anglo American Plc. Codelco, with its nearby Andina mine, also said its operations are unaffected.

Finance Minister Mario Marcel has said reconstruction will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Boric, who visited the area, declared two days of national mourning starting Monday.

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