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Chile Wildfires Affect Members and Neighbors; Full-time Missionaries Safe

Forest fires on the coast of Chile kill at least 112 people; burn thousands of acres

A person walks past destroyed houses, as a result of a forest fire that left thousands of homes burned in the hills of Vina del Mar, Chile, on February 3, 2024. According to authorities , the fire has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and left at least 20 dead. (Photo by Lucas Aguayo Araos/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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By Mary Richards, Church News

Massive forest fires grew over the weekend in central and coastal Chile, killing at least 112 people and destroying thousands of homes.

News reports said the fires burned at least 43,000 hectares in Valparaíso and have the highest intensity around Viña del Mar — which has hilly regions, a popular beach resort and a famous botanical garden, all greatly affected by the flames.

Elder Ricardo A. Spencer, Area Seventy and communications director for the South America South Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told the Church News that many Church members are affected in Viña del Mar and Quilpue. The numbers are still being updated because there are places that still cannot be entered.

The missionaries in the affected area are fine, he added.

One news agency reported that Chile President Gabriel Boric believed the number of victims would increase, as there are several hundred people still reported missing.

“It is the biggest tragedy we have had since the 2010 earthquake,” Boric said, referring to the 8.8 magnitude quake followed by a tsunami on Feb. 27 of that year, killing hundreds of people.

Fires also burned in Viña del Mar around Christmas in 2022, prompting several weeks of relief efforts. These fires are estimated to be 20 times larger than those.

Chile’s president announced two days of national mourning starting on Monday, February 5.

On Sunday, Viña del Mar Chile Stake President Alan Campos Gallardo met with the National Office of Religious Affairs to discuss relief efforts and “delivering comfort, hope, restraint and support to the people damaged and affected by the fire,” reported the stake Instagram account.

Members of the El Belloto Chile Stake, Villa Alemana Chile Stake and Quilpué Chile Stake volunteered Sunday, February 4, to deliver bottled water and supplies. Around 80 people wearing yellow Helping Hands gathered at a school in Quilpue to answer a call to help from the city. They invited others to join as their efforts would continue on Monday.

A post on the stake’s Instagram account thanked everyone who has been helping, saying “As disciples of Christ we are His hands to help His children in need.”

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