Chile’s Climate Catastrophe: Fires Devour Coastal Towns Amidst Heatwave
Last week, many tourists traveled towards the resort town of Viña del Mar, Chile, to run away from an excruciating heatwave. However, they didn’t know that a Dantesque scenario awaited them in the coastal city.
Fires surged Friday in the Valparaiso region. Fueled by winds and temperatures of around 104 degrees, it was the perfect recipe for disaster.
Chile lives its worst natural disaster in years
Images shared on social media and news outlets show the new reality in the age of climate change.
According to the Washington Post, at least 112 died last week when fires devoured isolated mountain communities in the central region of Chile. The national government reported some 100 separate fires in recent days.
This comes after what meteorologists have called an “unusually active fire season” through South America. Only days ago, the Colombian government declared a fire disaster as well.
After an apocalyptic weekend in Chile, on Monday, the space technology company Maxar gathered multiple satellite images that showed terrible burn scars in entire neighborhoods.
Climate change is the new norm
“The effects of global warming on the weather cannot be ignored anymore,” said Raúl Cordero, a climate scientist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, in a conversation with the Post.
Cordero, who was previously based in Chile, explained that fire outbreaks have been common in Chile during episodes of the El Niño climate pattern. While they had been “nearing dramatic” in previous years, “they never spread as ferociously as they have since 2017.”
That’s why this year’s disaster has been so deadly. As the Post continued, many residents ignored cellphone alerts ordering them to evacuate. None of them imagined flames could roar toward their homes so quickly.
While Latin American governments have increased spending on firefighting workers, equipment, and technology, the new climate reality seems unmanageable.
“What is new is global warming,” Cordero concluded.