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Chile starts to recover wildfires 'disaster' blamed for 11 deaths

The worst wildfires in Chile's history are finally dying down after consuming forests and entire towns and being blamed for at least 11 deaths.

Now the thousands of people who have lost most of their belongings and their livelihoods and looking to the future, with some complaining that state aid is not enough given the extent of the devastation.

President Michelle Bachelet said on Friday the flames are no longer threatening residential areas for now and that her government is beginning to hand out money and food to the Chilean who have been worst-hit by the fires.

"The emergency situation is still ongoing, so it's important to not drop our guard," she said.

However the flames from more than 100 wildfires sometimes spread anew when winds whip up smouldering ash.

The ferocity of the blazes led Ms Bachelet to issue a state of emergency, deploy troops and seek international aid.

Supertanker planes from the US and Russia have dumped thousands of gallons of water to assist local crews.

In all, more than 20,000 people, including firefighters and experts from more than a dozen countries, have fought the wildfires that Ms Bachelet has called the worst forest disaster in Chile's history.

Besides farmers and ranchers, hundreds of small-scale winemakers, beekeepers and artisans have also lost everything.

But many continue to show the same stoicism that has helped Chileans to recover from other natural disasters, including large earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

So far, the government has spent about £257 million to control the emergency and is helping small-scale farmers rebuild their homes and lands, said finance minister Rodrigo Valdes.

The full extent of the damage has yet to be quantified.

An estimated 80 families that made a living from beekeeping lost their livelihoods in the area near the city of Cauquenes, about 220 miles south of Chile's capital Santiago.

About 63 million bees died in the area and some 240 million bees are at high risk, said forestry engineer and beekeeper consultant Carlos Correa.

Beekeeper Jorge Andrade complained that the £1,170 government aid that he will get for losing it all "is nothing" and will only help him recover a small fraction of his hundreds of beehives.

AP

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