SANTIAGO – The Chilean authorities have detained 10 people accused of causing deadly wildfires, a government official said.
The blazes, fanned by severe heat and dry winds, have led to 24 deaths.
Those who started them potentially face harsh consequences, said Interior Ministry Undersecretary Manuel Monsalve at a press conference on Sunday.
“The intentional starting of fires will be criminally prosecuted by the government,” Mr Monsalve said. “The law is especially harsh regarding the crime of arson. The sentences range from five years and one day to 20 years. They are high penalties, and we’ll pursue the highest penalties the law allows.”
Chile is working to contain 51 of 260 wildfires currently burning, with 28 of them considered significant, Mr Monsalve said. The blazes have destroyed 800 homes, and 26 people are hospitalised with serious burns.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric declared a state of catastrophe in a third region on Saturday and requested assistance from neighbouring countries.
Spain sent 50 members of its Military Emergency Unit to help control the blazes, according to a tweet from Chile’s government.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro said he would send a plane with experts and materials.
The fires are the latest example of extreme weather fuelled by climate change, with temperatures in parts of Chile reaching record highs in recent days.
“The climate crisis is burning Chile,” Mr Petro said in a tweet. BLOOMBERG