Chile is going through one of its most devastating summers in its history. The usual number of forest fires that occur in the course of a year, have occurred in just one week.
These fires are the most fatal in the last decade, leaving at least 26 deaths, and destroying at least 270,000 hectares and more than 1500 homes. Thousands have been left homeless.
All of this has occurred as Chile has been living through a mega drought for many years. Also, added to this has been the heatwave that has hit the centre and southern parts of the country, with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius.
Nine persons have been accused of deliberately starting fires.
Nevertheless, environmentalist groups claim that the real culprit is the Agro-Forestry Industry, as the areas most affected by the forest fires are the areas where forestry monoculture is cultivated. This type of single tree species has a high risk of forest fire.
However, according to environmental groups, what is most questionable is that the forestry companies will receive an insurance payment for forest fires.
Sadly, there has been a great loss of native fauna, as well as farm and domestic animals, that have been trapped by the fires.
Much needed help has arrived from other Latin American countries, from Europe and other countries, who have provided firefighting brigades, rescue specialists, water tanker planes and helicopters.
Columban Missionaries in South America extend our condolences to the families and friends of the fatal victims. We realise that natural disasters such as this lead to much trauma and suffering for so many.
We place all those who are suffering in our prayers, asking the Lord to comfort those suffering with wisdom, faith and hope. We listen to the cry of the Earth and accept the challenge to defend our common home.
Elsewhere, tragedy in has struck Peru. Mudslides caused by torrential rain have left more than 40 deaths, 15 disappeared, and thousands of families left homeless in the south of Peru.
Heavy rain, especially in the Arequipa region, has triggered these mud slides that have swept away everything in its way, including homes and persons.
Videos circulating on social media show the mudslides destroying homes as well as people risking their lives to rescue those in danger.
As Columban Missionaries in South America we have placed the deceased victims and their families in our prayers, as well as the estimated 20,000 left homeless.
As Christians and believers in Jesus, we are called to take care of God’s creation and to listen to the cry of the Earth, our common home.
According to Columban missionary Fr. Ed O’Connell, “While the rain caused it, often poor people building their homes where there is space and space can be found in gullies, where houses should not be built, because flash flooding sweeps them away.”
He adds, “It is certain that climate change has brought hot summers and shorter and not so severe winters. We have had rain in the north but drought in the south, up in the Andes mountains but now rain has come late to the south in excess, hence the flash flooding.”