Fires in central Chile consume over 3,200 hectares

SANTIAGO, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The National Emergency Office of the Chilean Ministry of the Interior and Public Security (ONEMI) reported on Saturday that 3,230 hectares of land have been consumed by fires in the past two days in the Valparaiso region.

According to the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF), forest fires are still active in the Lago Penuelas National Reserve and Hacienda Las Palmas 2. Although the fires are under control, they have not been extinguished.

"It is a giant perimeter, and we are mainly concerned about the advance towards the western sector. The other fronts are quite confined and have low spread," CONAF director Sandro Bruzzone said.

The Valparaiso regional secretary of health, Francisco Alvarez, said that three patients that tested positive for the novel coronavirus were evacuated from the area near the fires and are now in isolation.

On Friday, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said that authorities had reason to believe that the fires were set intentionally, and investigators had filed a criminal complaint against the perpetrators.

"(The fire) could have turned into a true tragedy. Fortunately, early, timely, committed and efficient work (...) has allowed us to control this fire," he said.

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