March 12, 2014
Massive wildfires rage across Chile
Forest fires in southern Chile, fueled by intense heat and strong winds, advanced further this week after destroying nearly 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres), officials said.
The worst of the blazes were concentrated in Chile's Bio Bio region, where about 22,500 hectares have been destroyed, according to Chile's National Emergency Office (Onemi).
About 500 people have been evacuated from the area and 162 homes destroyed. The damage prompted the authorities to declare the region a "disaster zone," which will allow residents to receive federal emergency assistance.
The Chilean government has asked Brazil for an aircraft that can carry water to extinguish flames.
International media reported some have blamed the fire on Rotem Singer, a 23-year-old Israeli tourist. One prosecutor claimed Singer, who was released on Sunday but had his passport confiscated, triggered the disaster after setting fire to toilet paper without putting the flames out.
Singer and his family have denied the charges.