Chilean Forest Fire

LWF member church in Valparaiso assisting victims of out of control forest fires. Photo: Leonardo Maldonado (CC-BY-NC)
LWF member church in Valparaiso assisting victims of out of control forest fires. Photo: Leonardo Maldonado (CC-BY-NC)

LWF Member Church in Valparaiso Raises Funds and Coordinates Relief

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member church in Valparaiso is appealing for financial support and coordinating donations of food, clothing and other essential items to help thousands of displaced people after a devastating forest fire razed parts of the Chilean port city.

The fire, the worst ever to hit the UNESCO World Heritage city, broke out on Saturday in the hills surrounding Valparaiso, 110 km west of the capital Santiago, killing at least 15 people. Officials said more than 2,500 homes have been destroyed, leaving 11,000 inhabitants homeless.

“The reality in Valparaiso is really sad and the fires are still not under control. Each hour we add more damaged families who have lost everything,” said Rev. Rodolfo Olivera Obermöller, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Viña del Mar on April 14. “As the Lutheran Church in Valparaiso, we are arranging donations and volunteering to help them.”

The city’s poorest neighborhoods, often made up of little more than wooden huts, were worst affected. Many of these homes were built illegally, lacking water and sewer connections, with improper foundations on dangerous slopes and no way for emergency vehicles to reach them in a crisis. Thousands of people have been evacuated and are currently living in schools and other temporary accommodation centers.

Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo said Monday it could take days to bring under control what he called "some of the most complicated situations." Experts said that it could take even longer to fully extinguish all the fires.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Viña del Mar is distributing items such as first aid kits, milk, nappies, blankets, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food and water. Church members are using the media to announce collection centers across the city for donations and centers for animals rescued from the fire.

The LWF member church is also working with volunteers at the city’s Holy Trinity Church to support people in need. It has provided food and household goods to people injured in the fire and those at the Escuela Grecia center.

“We are supporting families who have lost everything. Right now, we are in the first stage to respond to the emergency, meeting basic need of the victims and also knowing their realities. The second and more difficult step will be the reconstruction part,” Rev. Rodolfo Olivera Obermöller. “We are keeping some donations to collaborate in rebuilding homes. Members from our church have contacted many families who have informed about their needs. We are also offering pastoral [care]. My primary job is to support the members in the church in the first step in the emergency which is part of the church mission.”

To send a donation, contact the Lutheran church in Valparaiso