SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Wildfires sweeping across Chile have destroyed more than 40,000 hectares (98,842 acres) of forestry land belonging to companies, most of it growing pine and eucalyptus for the wood, pulp and paper industry, an industry association said on Thursday.
The worst wildfires in Chile’s modern history are ravaging wide swathes of the country’s central-south regions, burning through forests and into neighboring towns.
The fires continued to rage on Thursday as hot, dry conditions continued, despite a massive firefighting effort that has drawn help from other nations including Mexico, Colombia and France. Local media reported nine people have died as a result of the fires, most of them firefighters and police officers.
As of Thursday, some 250,000 hectares of land had been affected, the government said.
Over 40,000 hectares of the impacted land is used by forestry companies who feed the wood, pulp and paper industry, Chile’s second-largest export industry after copper. There are a total of some 2.4 million hectares of plantations in the nation.
“It is still not possible to determine the economic damage caused by these fires, as they have destroyed woods in different stages of growth and forestry management, and there has also been loss of infrastructure and installations,” industry group CORMA said.
Companies of varying sizes have been affected, it said.
Larger companies with operations include Empresas Copec subsidiary Arauco, Empresas CMPC, and Masisa.
Wine industry association Grand Cru said there had been limited impact on the vineyards that dot the central region. Some 45 hectares of the country’s total 141,000 have burned, with mostly small producers affected, it said.
Listed Chilean wine producers include Concha y Toro and Santa Rita.
Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Paul Simao