Chile mourns 122 killed in wildfire inferno, searches for missing

Chile began two days of national mourning Monday for at least 122 victims of a raging wildfire, as the search continued for the missing and survivors picked through the scorched remains of their lives.

“All of Chile weeps for Valparaiso,” President Gabriel Boric said Sunday as the central coastal region reeled from the weekend inferno that has become the world’s third-deadliest wildfire this century.

Crowded hilltop neighborhoods that overlook the tourist hotspot found themselves without electricity and with limited water, the streets strewn with charred cars, debris and ash.

The fires surged Friday in the region, fueled by winds and amid a brutal heat wave that has seen temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Authorities are investigating whether they were started deliberately.

Supported by 31 firefighting helicopters and airplanes, some 1,400 firefighters, 1,300 military personnel and volunteers are combating the flames.

Authorities on Sunday reported around 40 fires still burning, with evacuations in Til Til, 60 km north of Santiago, and in Galvarino, 400 km south of the capital.

According to national disaster service SENAPRED, nearly 26,000 hectares (64,000 acres) had been burned across the central and southern regions by Sunday.

Some of the dead were seen lying on the road, covered by sheets.

The fires are being driven by a summer heat wave and drought affecting the southern part of South America caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, as scientists warn that a warming planet has increased the risk of natural disasters such as intense heat and fires.