BWI stands in solidarity with Chileans amid forest wildfires

 (Photo: Rens Veninga)

The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) extends its deepest solidarity and condolences to the people of Chile following the devastating impact of forest fires that struck the country on 2 February 2024. BWI stands in solidarity with the members of its affiliated unions: the National Confederation of Forestry Workers (CTF), the National Federation of Industrial Unions - Arauco Chile (FENASID), the Trade Union of Workers in Masisa Mapal Plant (FETRAMAS), and the National Intercompany Industrial Construction Workers Union (SINACIN), along with their families.

"We would like to express our heartfelt condolences and demand urgent support to assist the affected people and communities in Valparaíso, Villa Alemana, Quilpué, Limache, and Viña del Mar. BWI joins the Chilean people in their two-day national mourning," said Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary.

Yuson’s statement was echoed by Nilton Freitas, BWI Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, who urged the Chilean government and various companies to respond quickly to the disaster in terms of disaster management, as well as in providing assistance to support post-wildfire needs, such as restoring, redeveloping, and revitalizing communities impacted by the catastrophe, and mitigating their economic and social impacts.

Reports give staggering numbers: 112 lives lost, hundreds missing or trapped in their homes, and thousands displaced. The forest fires occurred while Chile, Argentina, and other parts of South America’s southern cone faced a severe heatwave. Extreme heatwaves and higher temperatures are fueling more severe and widespread forest fires. Moreover, record-high temperatures, low humidity, and high wind speeds make it difficult to control the wildfires in central Chile, which have already burned through 8,000 hectares (30 square miles) of forest and urban areas, workplaces of our workers, and homes of our communities.

BWI said that the likelihood of a strong El Niño weather pattern and increased wildfire frequency are consequences of climate change. The global union said that the disaster is a reminder that it is critically important to safeguard workers in climate emergencies and to act urgently to transition toward a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.