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ARGENTINA | 12-03-2021 14:04

One dead, several missing in Patagonia forest fires

One person has died and 11 are reported missing after days of blazing forest fires in Patagonia.

One person has died and 11 are reported missing after days of blazing forest fires in Patagonia.

Dozens of people have been evacuated from the path of the advancing flames, and some 200 houses have been destroyed, local government officials said Friday.

The fires, which authorities suspect were started deliberately early this week, have reached several towns while consuming about 1,500 hectares of forest, authorities said, turning a popular tourist region into a desolate landscape.

The fires broke out at the beginning of the week, taking in areas near the towns of Lago Puelo, El Bolsón, El Maitén, Epuyén, Futaleufú, El Hoyo and Las Golondrinas, near the foothills of the Andes mountains.

The charred body of a rural dweller, reported missing since Tuesday, was found near El Maitén on Friday. 

The provincial government in Chubut later said the individual, who was found with the corpses of a horse and two dogs, had been identified as rural labourer Sixto Garcés by friends and family. Investigators believe he likely became disoriented in the smoke and was consumed by the flames.

Rain reprieve

"The fire reached more than 200 homes and there are still 11 people whose whereabouts we do not know," Environment Minister Juan Cabandié told reporters.

Overnight rains brought some reprieve. But several fires, though contained, are still burning, he added, as he toured community centres housing emergency evacuees.

Dozens of firefighters, aided by fire trucks, planes and helicopters are battling the remaining fires in the provinces of Chubut, Río Negro and Neuquén.

"There are people left without a home, with nothing. A lot of people are in need," Marcelo Cárdenas, who said he lost his house and a workshop, told AFP.

"I lost my house, my dogs, and 60 chickens," added Rosalinda Muena, 70, who makes a living selling jam and eggs to tourists in the affected region.

Cabandié said the fires started simultaneously in seven different places within three hours, leading investigators to suspect arson.

Last year, blazes devoured tens of thousands of hectares of forest in Argentina. These, too, were blamed on humans clearing land for farming or real estate, according to the Environment Ministry.

The blazes have left "tremendous damage," said Cabandié. "There is no water in Lago Puelo, in Epuyén, in El Maitén or in Las Golondrinas. There is no electricity."

 

– TIMES/AFP


 

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