As of February 5, 2024, a mega wildfire has devastated approximately 26,000 hectares. The affected areas include the provinces of Valparaíso and Marga Marga in the Quinta Región, where over 15,000 homes have been completely damaged. The combination of high population density in challenging terrains, prolonged drought, and soaring temperatures in Chile has greatly facilitated the rapid spread of wildfires. This situation is further compounded by the challenges in accessing affected areas and the limited capacity of Chilean institutions and emergency services to contain the fires effectively. UN Chile has reported that this prolonged heatwave commenced in January 2023, which has created the perfect conditions for the escalation of forest fires in this region of the country.
Current main impacts:
- As of February, 372 individuals are reported missing, and it is anticipated that this number will increase. 122 people have lost their lives due to the fire. Furthermore, a total of 40,000 individuals have been significantly and comprehensively affected by the destruction of homes.
- It has been estimated that affected residences in the Valparaíso region are up to 12,000 in Viña del Mar and 2,000 in Quilpué. Affected people would exceed 38,000 (approximately 31,000 people in Viña del Mar and around 7,000 people in Quilpué).
- Besides the loss of lives and the devastation of residences, schools, and natural spaces, the impact extends to two ecologically vital areas: the La Campana-Peñuelas Biosphere Reserve, acknowledged as one of Chile’s ten biosphere reserves, and the Viña del Mar Botanical Garden, a key green sanctuary in the region.
- Severe impacts have been identified on critical infrastructure such as homes, businesses, vehicles, recreational spaces, places of worship, and educational facilities, among other aspects, being damaged or destroyed.
- The population affected is facing considerable mental health challenges as a result of the loss of human and animal lives, the upheaval of their livelihoods, and the complete or partial destruction of their environment, surroundings, and homes.
- Long-term solutions will be contingent upon political decisions by the Chilean government, while immediate and urgent measures surpass the current capacity of the government. This is evidenced by the significant involvement of private and civic organizations providing assistance to affected families.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile (IELCH) is seeking to provide emergency response to alleviate humanitarian needs caused by the fires in three sectors: Psychosocial Support, Food Security (involving the delivery of food baskets), and WASH (with the distribution of hygiene kits and menstrual hygiene kits). An RRF proposal is being drafted with a budget estimate of approximately USD 150,000 for the successful planning and execution of the above activities.