Wildfire ravages massive section of Argentine forest

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AFP) — A wildfire raging in the south of Argentina has consumed a huge patch of forestland in two days, local authorities said Tuesday — the equivalent of almost 20 Central Parks.

The blaze, its origins still unknown, is threatening a vast region around El Bolson, a town of some 18,000 inhabitants in the Rio Negro province in northern Patagonia.

More than 100 firefighters have been deployed, working side by side with volunteers and local residents backed up by two water-bombing helicopters and a small plane to combat the fire, which has now burned some 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres).

At least four firefighters have been treated in the hospital for sustained injuries, according to Rio Negro authorities.

“We have entire hillsides lit up, the dimensions are vast, it is the biggest fire we have had in the region,” Rio Negro’s deputy fire service head Nicolas D’Agostino told journalists.

Drought, high temperatures and strong winds have complicated the firefighting effort.

The flames have caused damage to some rural homes and a few sheds, but have not reached the more populated areas, officials said.

© Agence France-Presse