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At least 64 killed in Chile wildfires as president warns death toll will likely grow

At least 64 killed in Chile wildfires as president warns death toll will likely grow

Fires devastating parts of central Chile have killed at least 64 people, according to an updated death toll.

President Gabriel Boric warned that this number is likely to surge in the coming days when he said his people face a "tragedy of very great magnitude" on Sunday.

Wildfires that began several days ago are menacing the outer edges of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, two coastal cities popular with tourists.

The urban sprawl of those cities accounts for more than a million residents west of the capital Santiago.

Chilean authorities have introduced a 9 p.m. curfew in the hardest-hit areas and sent in the military to help firefighters stem the spread of fires, while helicopters dumped water to try to douse the flames from the air.

Mr Boric, announcing two days of national mourning starting on Monday, said Chile should prepare itself for more bad news - the death toll rose from 51 on Saturday.

Vehicles and homes burn during a fire in Viña del Mar, Chile (AFP via Getty Images)
Vehicles and homes burn during a fire in Viña del Mar, Chile (AFP via Getty Images)

In a televised speech, he said: "We know that figure is going to grow, it's going to grow significantly.We are facing a tragedy of very great magnitude."

"It is Chile as a whole that suffers and mourns our dead."

Hundreds of people also have been reported missing and more than 1,000 homes have been damaged.

Officials on Saturday said more than 90 fires were raging across Chile.

Although wildfires are not uncommon during the Southern Hemisphere's summer, the lethality of these blazes stands out, making them the country's worst national disaster since the 2010 earthquake in which about 500 people died.

Last year, on the back of a record heat wave, some 27 people died and more than 990,000 acres of land were affected.

Mr Boric has sought to channel funds to the hardest-hit areas, many of which are popular with tourists.

"We are together, all of us, fighting the emergency. The priority is to save lives," he said.