At least 131 people dead, more than 300 missing after forest fires in Chile

Authorities in Chile said on Tuesday the death toll from massive forest fires that raged for several days has risen to at least 131. Casualty numbers could rise further, with more than 300 others remaining unaccounted for.

The fires broke out mainly along the coast, before spreading to heavily populated areas in the mountains.

The blaze tore through a hilly district in the central city of Vina del Mar, destroying many of the 700 homes in the area. In many cases, charred walls and pillars are all that remains.

Residents and volunteers were working together to remove debris.

A man in his 50s whose house burned down said the fire spread quickly, fanned by strong winds. He said he only had a few minutes to evacuate. He said some of his friends in the neighborhood died.

Most of the fires have reportedly been put out, but firefighting operations are ongoing in some areas.

Authorities are investigating suspicions that some of the fires were started deliberately.