SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile extended an emergency declaration to another region Saturday as firefighters battled to control dozens of wildfires that have claimed at least 22 lives amid a record-breaking blistering heat wave.

The government declared a state of catastrophe in the region of La Araucanía, which is south of Ñuble and Biobío, two central-southern regions where the emergency declaration had already been issued. The move allows for greater cooperation with the military.

At least 22 people have died in connection with the fires and 554 have been injured, including 16 in serious condition, according to Interior Minister Carolina Tohá. The death toll is likely to rise as Tohá said there are unconfirmed reports of at least 10 people missing.

Sixteen of the deaths occurred in Biobío, five in La Araucanía and one in Ñuble.

Volunteers carry supplies for firefighters near burning trees in Puren, Chile, on Saturday, February 4, 2023.
Volunteers carry supplies for firefighters near burning trees in Puren, Chile, on Saturday, February 4, 2023. Matías Delacroix / AP

Among the deaths is a Bolivian pilot who was killed when a helicopter helping fight the flames crashed in La Araucanía. A Chilean mechanic also died in the accident.

During the past week, the fires have devastated an area equivalent to what is usually burned in a whole year, Tohá said at a press conference.

The fires are taking place at a time of record temperatures.

“The thermometer has reached points that we have never known before,” Tohá said.

As of Saturday morning, there were 251 forest fires across Chile, 151 of which were under control, according to Chile’s disaster agency Senapred.

“Seventy-six new fires appeared yesterday,” Tohá said Saturday.

The minister also suggested that the fires should serve as another wake-up call on the effects of climate change.

“The evolution of climate change shows us time and time again that it has a centrality and a capacity to cause an impact that we have to internalize much more,” Tohá said. «Chile is one of the countries with the greatest vulnerability to climate change, and this is not theory but practical experience.»

Chile requests international cooperation to assist in firefighting efforts.

“We are requesting the support of various countries to attend to the emergency,” President Gabriel Boric wrote on social media.