SANTIAGO – The smoke from the extensive wildfires in Australia, considered to be the worst of the past century having destroyed some six million hectares (15 million acres), arrived in Chile on Monday after traveling more than 11,000 kilometers (6,820 miles) over the Pacific Ocean.
A meteorological trough – a barometric depression that penetrates between two zones of high atmospheric pressure – is suspected to have been the conduit through which the smoke crossed the Pacific to the South American continent.
Meteorologist Edita Amador told EFE that the smoke is especially visible in central Chile, where mist is covering the sky that under normal circumstances would be cloudless, and that it is “possible” that it will remain in the area until Tuesday.
“In the coming days probably it will head toward Argentina,” said Amador, who works for Chile’s Weather Directorate.
The presence of smoke should not cause any serious effects in the South American nation, since it rarely rains in that area.
The only consequence so far, Amador said, is a reduction in the ultraviolet radiation reaching the ground because of the “cap” that these kind of clouds form over the land.
Light rain in areas affected by bushfires in southeast Australia on Monday gave firefighters and affected communities some respite before temperatures are expected to return to around 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) at the end of this week.
The fires, considered among the worst of the century in Australia, have caused 23 deaths and destroyed more than 1,500 homes since September – around half of them since the end of the year – and have burned almost six million hectares (15 million acres) of land, equivalent to twice the area of Belgium.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday the allocation of AU$2 billion ($1.39 billion) to a bushfire recovery fund for rebuilding areas affected by the blazes over the next two years.
The National Bushfire Recovery Fund, which will be led by former Australian federal police commissioner Andrew Colvin, will be dedicated to helping rebuild houses and infrastructure damaged by the fires that have raged in the country since September and which resulted in a “catastrophic” weekend just past.
“Whatever it takes, whatever it costs,” Morrison told reporters after meeting with his cabinet’s national security committee.
The prime minister said that the fund was independent of other already approved aid, underlining that it was an “initial” commitment which can be increased if necessary and if the damages go up.