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Massive fires in Chile kill at least 112 people and displace thousands, affecting churches

The authorities say the full scope of the destruction is not clear. At least 6 evangelical church buildings have been destroyed.

FUENTES Agencies, Evangélico Digital AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus SANTIAGO DE CHILE 05 DE FEBRERO DE 2024 13:30 h
Hundreds of homes have been lost in the forest fires in Chile. / Photo: Video capture [link]RTVE[/link].

The gigantic forest fires raging in Chile are advancing from different fronts to populated areas, leaving a trail of destruction in cities such as Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, Quilpué, Villa Alemana and Limache, all located in the Valparaíso Region, 130 kilometres down the coast from Santiago, the Chilean capital.

According to reports from the National Service for Disaster Prevention and Response, the fire has burned around 12,000 homes, killed 112 people so far, and affected some 39,000 citizens. An estimated 10,700 hectares of forest and urban areas have been consumed by the fire.

“We have been surprised by the level of fatalities”, a Chilean Christian believer whose home was not affected told Evangelical Focus. “Usually there are fires in Chile at this time of year. One factor to bear in mind is that many urban areas in the centre and south of Chile are surrounded by forests”.


Deadliest tragedy in a decade

The authorities in the region confirmed that “it is the deadliest tragedy that Chile has faced in the last decade”. Chile’s president Gabriel Boric decreed a two-day national mourning period starting on Monday 5 February, as the number of deaths were expected to “grow significantly”.

An emergency aid system was activated. Military forces were controlling the streets to prevent traffic collapse and looting of homes of the victims who are staying in shelters, as well as to enable the free movement of emergency vehicles.


Churches and evangelicals affected

Pastor Caleb Fernandez, regional advisor of ONAR (National Office of Religious Affairs) in the Valparaiso Region, confirmed that 6 evangelical churches were affected by the fire and several pastors were helplessly watching their homes engulfed in flames.

The Eternal Gospel Church (Miraflores), the Autonomous Assembly of God Church (Villa Dulce), the International Christian Centre (Achupallas), the Mount Sinai Church, the Baptist Church of Villa Independencia and the International Restoration Corporation are the churches affected.

In view of this situation, Pastor Fernandez said that they are taking steps to make available churches that were not affected to receive the bodies of deceased people who had an evangelical faith and to function as wake houses and places of spiritual support for family members.

“There are several churches that are helping on the ground”, the source in Chile told Evangelical Focus. “In fact, there are testimonies indicating that although the state has not yet arrived with aid, the church has already done so”.

Pastor Fernandez indicated that his office is coordinating volunteer work with the Presidential Delegation, municipalities and evangelical churches. Specialist religious emergency organisations such as Adra, Cadena, Caritas, and Salvation Army will work jointly with the regional authorities.

The Chile Division of the Salvation Army has already set up its first solidarity canteen in the Valle del Sol sector, one of the most affected, where daily food rations, hygiene kits and water will be provided for the duration of the emergency.

Church denominations such as the Presbyterian Church of Chile invited its members to “pray for the situation we are going through and open our homes to people in need”. They also called to donate food and money to churches in the most affected regions.

With information sent by Caleb Vilchez and Wladimir Antivil, from Chile.


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