Above: Firefighters from Venezuela arrive at Santiago, Chile January 29 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
(UPDATED at 1645 Chile time January 31, 2017, to include additional funds provided to Chile by the United States.)
At least nine countries are sending various forms of aid to Chile to help deal with what President Michelle Bachelet has called the worst forest disaster in Chile’s history.
As of January 30 there were at least 58 active wildfires that have burned 1,047 homes and killed 11 people, including four firefighters and the pilot of a single engine air tanker.
Spain, France, and Portugal have each sent over 50 firefighters, while Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico have also mobilized firefighters to Chile.
Brazil is contributing the use of a C-130 with a slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS), and the Russian IL-76 air tanker arrived on January 30.
The United States sent four wildfire specialists from the U.S. Forest Service and also activated five local consultants in Chile to liaise with national authorities and help coordinate response activities. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) committed $100,000 to Caritas, a local non-governmental organization associated with the Catholic Church, for the regional procurement and delivery of firefighting equipment.
On Tuesday afternoon the U.S. Embassy in Chile announced that an additional $740,000 is being provided. The U.S. Agency for International Development, through its office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), will donate $500,000 to support the humanitarian needs of communities affected by the wildfires and $200,000 USD worth of personal protective equipment to those fighting the fires. Additionally, $20,000 USD will be donated to Caritas for tools needed to build firebreaks.
This disaster assistance comes in addition to a donation of $20,000 USD made to the non-profit ADRA, for personal hygiene kits which were recently distributed to affected residents of Santa Olga, a town that was completely destroyed by the fires.
A grandson of the founder of WalMart, Ben Walton with his wife Lucy Ana, are funding through the family’s foundation system the initial deployment and use of the privately owned 747 SuperTanker out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. Other non-governmental organizations have expressed interest in helping to provide additional financing for the aircraft in Chile.
— Jorge Daccarett (@j_daccarett) January 28, 2017
Ahora Noticias is reporting that the government of Chile has contracted for four firefighting helicopters to be brought in on an Antonov freighter aircraft. The aircraft are expected to be one K-MAX and three Bell 205’s. There may also be some large Air-Crane helicopters arriving to assist the firefighters on the ground.
Last week President Bachelet declared a state of emergency which authorizes additional authority for the military. We explored the possibility of driving several hours away to report on the fire activity, but were told by local fire personnel that we would encounter numerous checkpoints that could make travel difficult.