SANTIAGO – A fire destroyed the facilities of a Chilean naval base on King George Island on the extreme northern end of Antarctica this week, according to the Chilean Navy.
There were no injuries, and the 10 naval personnel who were stationed at the base were evacuated and in good health, said the Chilean Navy in a statement on Thursday.
— Armada de Chile (@Armada_Chile) July 12, 2018
The Navy personnel were staying at the Chilean Antarctic Institute of the Chilean Foreign Ministry, according to Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero.
Lamentamos incendio de Gobernación Marítima Antártica. Felizmente a salvo las 10 personas que laboraban alli. Base Escudero de nuestro INACH alberga ahora a dotación de la Armada. pic.twitter.com/cRfaKXqSZb
— Roberto Ampuero (@robertoampuero) July 12, 2018
A Fire Extinguishing squad from the Teniente Marsh aerodrome at the President Frei Montalva base of the Chilean Air Force, adjacent to the naval installation, worked hard to put down the flames, but there was very little they could do.
At dawn all that was left were the smoking remains of the 1,000 square-meter facilities.
The commander in chief of the III Naval Zone, Rear Admiral Ricardo Marcos, explained that the fire is likely to have started in the old part of the base which dates back to 1987, and that due to the wind it quickly spread to the newer part, which was opened in April 2009.
Marcos said that “the fire started in an old sector, where the boiler and warehouses used to be, and where people were to be housed only when maintenance crews stopped by.”
“The important thing is that the staff is intact and we are receiving logistical support from the Air Force facilities of the Inach (Chilean Antarctic Institute),” Marcos added.
He also said that despite the fire it will be business as usual for the Maritime Governance in Antarctica, which supports maritime traffic in the Antarctic peninsula. “That capacity we’re going to keep with support from the Inach facilities,” Marcos said.
The causes of the fire are unknown for now and are subject to investigation.
Chile has 10 bases in Antarctica, more than any other country.