A forest fire in Argentinian Patagonia has struck hundreds of houses, left seven injured, 15 missing and forced the evacuation of 200 people, according to official sources at the AFP news agency.
According to the deputy chief of police of the region of Chubut, Óscar Gómez Ocampo, in an interview with the Argentinian newspaper Clarín, the number of missing people is even higher and at least 40 people have not yet been found. “The most optimistic possibility is that they left their homes before the fire broke out and are taking refuge somewhere. But something more serious may have happened, ”he said.
The flames reached the towns of Lago Puelo, El Bolsón, El Maitén, Epuyén, Futaleufú and El Hoyo, which form a region of many forests and lakes close to the Andes.
According to Argentina’s Minister of the Environment, Juan Cabandié, the fire was intentional and affected more than 100 houses in the region. At a press conference, he promised to file a criminal complaint.
In El Hoyo, the rains put out the fire, but there are still embers under the layer of ash, as well as vigils being organized there, Alejandro Otero, a spokesman for the regional government, told AFP.
The federal government sent a Hércules plane with 40 brigadiers to join the 60 who already carry out helicopter and truck operations.
Last year, fires in the country devastated tens of thousands of hectares. According to a report from the Ministry of the Environment, 95% of the actions were triggered for harvests or real estate transactions.