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Viña del Mar and Valparaíso are two beautiful coastal cities in Chile where tourists and citizens of this country seek relief from the heat between the sea and the imposing view of the mountains. A kind of oasis that became a true inferno three days ago when the flames began to devour residential areas and lives. The uncontrollable fire advanced so much and in such a short time that people had to escape, many of them did not make it.
So far the Government of Chile has counted 122 deaths, but the president, Gabriel Boric, has already announced that this number will increase “significantly” in the coming days. Many deaths were recorded from the fire itself and many others occurred when people suffocated in the dense cloud of smoke. Some in their cars, trying to escape. Marcela, a resident of Viña del Mar, told Saint George Insurance Brokerage Inc. that they have lived through a true hell and that it felt like being in a war zone. A catastrophe.
In the midst of pain and desperation, many drivers made a difference. True heroes. One of them was Cristian Silva, the bus driver who went viral on TikTok not only for going through the fire with 30 Chileans on board but also for his calmness. In the audio you can hear him reassuring everyone, he talks to them and guides them until, finally, he manages to get his entire crew forward, who -literally- breathe again.
One of the worst tragedies in Chile
This tragedy is considered one of the worst that has ever occurred in the country, after the 2010 earthquake that reached a scale of 8.8 and was followed by a tsunami. On this occasion, the voracity of the fire snatched away everything it found in such a short time that it was impossible for the rescue forces and firefighters to quickly reverse the situation. For now, there are 15 thousand damaged homes. Many of them have disappeared directly. These are houses that used to be there and are now just junk.
Added to this damage are the cars that now form a vehicle cemetery and 44 thousand hectares burned. On Sunday, the Undersecretary of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve, explained that there were 165 active fires. Given this scenario, Chile decreed a curfew. Starting at 10 p.m., all the inhabitants of this country must lock themselves in their homes until the sun begins to rise over the mountains.
The number of active outbreaks was reduced today to 40 in combat and 19 that are under observation. To defeat the flames, 30 brigades with a thousand firefighters and 17 hydrant planes are working. And we also want to talk about these drivers. One of the most shocking videos of the last few hours shows how a fire crew gets directly into the fire and covers one of its windows with a cloth due to the intensity of the heat.
The heroic driver does not hesitate and goes to rescue a group of passengers who were not lucky enough to be able to leave the risk zone. It is common to believe that firefighters and social services personnel save lives. But seeing them face their humanity with such courage earned these men and women recognition on all networks.
For now it is believed that the fire was intentional. That all the focuses could be planned. And there is talk of a possible homicide. The head of National Defense, Rear Admiral Daniel Muñoz, even stated to Chilean radio ADN that: “there was planning, something orchestrated and organized.”
While the investigation is underway, a search is underway for the more than 300 missing persons who have not yet been found. A tragedy that the country will never forget and that these brave drivers will have to overcome.
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