Latin America & Caribbean

Chile forest blaze kills six firefighters in Araucania

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Media captionForest fires have ravaged large areas of central and southern Chile

At least six firefighters have died battling a blaze in a mountain forest in southern Chile, the authorities say.

Two others were badly burned in the fire in the Araucania region.

Over the past week multiple forest fires have ravaged large areas of central and southern Chile.

President Sebastian Pinera says some appear to have been started deliberately, and has invoked an anti-terrorist law to pursue anyone responsible.

The six firefighters who died were part of a team trying to extinguish a blaze near Carahue in the Araucania region, about 700km (434 miles) south of the capital Santiago.

They were trapped by flames when the wind suddenly changed direction, officials said.

Several other firefighters were badly burned and one was reported missing.

'Terrorist intentions'

President Sebastian Pinera said the fire had probably been started intentionally and has invoked an anti-terrorist law to pursue those responsible.

"It is necessary to combat not just the flames, but also the criminals that are presumably behind this," he said.

Mr Pinera did not say who he thought might be responsible.

In recent years Araucania has seen protests by indigenous Mapuche activists who say their ancestral lands have been taken over by forestry companies.

Some have been prosecuted for alleged arson using anti-terrorist laws. Mapuche activists have blamed forestry companies for the fires.

As well as in Araucania, there have also been recent wildfires in the Bio Bio region, further north, and in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia in the far south.

The wildfires - the worst Chile has seen in years - have been worsened by strong winds, high temperatures and exceptionally dry conditions.

Torres del Paine National Park - Chile's foremost tourist attraction - reopened on Wednesday after most of the fires there had been brought under control.

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Media captionChile heat drops while Brazil rains continue

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