Tuesday, April 16, 2024

5 die battling forest fire in central Oaxaca

Five residents of the town of San Lucas Quiaviní died while fighting a forest fire that threatened their village in the eastern section of the Central Valleys region of the state of Oaxaca, some 40 kilometers from state capital Oaxaca City.

Villagers tried to contain the conflagration that started on Tuesday, but the fire quickly spread and five men were overwhelmed by the advancing fire on Wednesday.

Six fires remains active in the region. (Salomón Cruz/X)

State authorities were alerted as soon as the fire was spotted, but villagers say officials were slow to react. 

The Oaxaca state government did not issue an emergency assistance plan until after the fatalities were reported, two days after being alerted to the fire. By then, San Lucas Quiaviní had issued a call to neighboring municipalities to help combat the blaze. 

Upon announcing the plan, Governor Salomón Cruz Jara expressed regret in a post on social media platform X: “We mourn the terrible deaths of five residents of San Lucas Quiaviní in a fire that threatened their community. Designated officials are continuing to work to control this fire. I send my deepest condolences to the families affected and reiterate our support and solidarity.”

The National Forestry Commission on Thursday conducted a flyover to determine the magnitude of the fire and direct firefighting efforts in conjunction with the state Forestry Commission and civil protection personnel from the municipalities of Tlacolula de Matamoros, where San Lucas Quiaviní is located, and San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

Fire brigades from the nearby communities of San Isidro Huayápam and El Tequio Xoxocotlán are working alongside National Forestry Commission personnel.

Municipal and community officials have been tasked with safeguarding the volunteers helping to control the fire. In all, roughly 200 volunteers and official personnel were on site. The Oaxaca Attorney General’s Office sent a forensic team to recover the bodies and help investigate the origins of the fire. 

There are currently six active forest fires in Oaxaca, including a second in the Central Valleys region, far to the southwest near the village of La Compañía. 

With reports from Proceso and El Universal

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