According to the United Nations, Chile “lacks clarity” in the prevention and combat of the type of large wildfires that have been raging in the country’s south-central zone. Despite Chile’s “robust” response, a UN official suggested the country needed a more thoughtful and nuanced approach, especially with respect to rural areas.
A United Nations (UN) delegation recently arrived to the central Biobío region. Its task is to advise Chile in the midst of the wildfire emergency that has been tormenting the country for several weeks.
In the last month, hundreds of fires have consumed more than 400,000 hectares in Chile’s south-central regions. The official death toll stands at 26, with many more injured and otherwise affected. More than 1,600 houses have been destroyed, displacing thousands.
The UN coordinator in Chile, María José Torres, witnessed the damage caused by the flames. As reported by BioBioChile, she said that it was clear that Chile had been trying hard to respond to the fires, but that the country “lacks clarity” when facing such fires. “These fires are a new type of disaster, and Chile seems less clear on how to prevent and combat them,” and especially in rural areas with a dispersed population the reaction could have been better, she added.
Local authorities responded to these statements by stressing prevention: “There is a learning curve here. If we don’t do anything and just wait until next year’s summer, the chances are high that we will end up in a similar or worse situation.” One way to avoid this might be to create an international body to unite countries suffering similar tragedies and leverage group knowledge and experience. Minister of Foreign Affairs José Miguel Ahumada advocated for such an organization.
The Minister also mentioned that progress is already being made to coordinate international assistance in the reconstruction of the areas most affected by the fires.
Matthijs is a newly graduated journalism student from Groningen, the Netherlands. As a starting journalist and aspiring foreign correspondent, he decided to extend his 6-month university exchange in Chile to do an internship at Chile Today. He enjoys writing about a broad range of topics, but international relations, politics and conflicts are his key interests.