Vichuquen (on alert)

(Lago de Vichuquen, Chile. 2017)

In the third week of January 2017, a series of wildfires starting in the central south of Chile consumed 956297,826 acres of land, killed a dozen people and affected thousands more by destroying economies in entire regions of the country.

Chile is a country used to dealing with natural disasters, such as an earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunami alerts. But this time, an unpredictable cocktail of climate conditions, fires started intentionally by different people in different places, and a lack of coordination among authorities made this an unstoppable disaster for about two weeks. The worst wildfire in the history of Chile was put under control only when the government started getting aid from foreign countries.

This essay was done while I was on assignment in the area of Lake Vichuquen, a peaceful location that for over a week turned in to a nightmare of smoke, fire and panic.