Wildfires rage in Chile

Residents are evacuated from their homes as the flames continue to spread.

Last updated: 06 Jan 2014 10:14
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The air quality in Santiago is said to be the worst pollution the city had dealt with for a number of years. [EPA]

Parts of South America continue to struggle under blistering conditions.

In Chile, this has caused forest fires to spread rapidly. Residents have been forced  from their homes and authorities have been prompted to declare a red alert.

Once lit, the combination of high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds ensure the fires spread quickly, which makes them very difficult to extinguish.

According to the head of the Fire Management Department of Chile's National Forest Corporation (CONAF), Dante Bravo, crews were fighting 19 fires in the Maule region on Friday.

But as the firefighters battled the blazes, the weather showed its worst. The temperatures soared to 32C; the humidity was incredibly low, at just 4%; and the winds raged at 30 kph. No wonder the fires grew so rapidly.

The fires are burning almost 200km to the south of Santiago, but despite the distance, the acrid smoke drifted north and covered parts of the city.

The air quality is believed to be the worst pollution the city had dealt with for a number of years.

Older people and those with respiratory illnesses were being urged to take precautions and avoid any physical activity.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Argentina, residents of Buenos Aires were also struggling to cope with the heat.

Residents have cranked up their air conditioning units, and this surge in demand has caused a wave of black outs across the city.

The national newspaper, Clarin, is reporting that some residents have been without power for three weeks.

The heat across the region shows no signs of easing over the next few days.


Al Jazeera
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