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Chile: trees that survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb escape the fire

The devastating fire that ravaged Chile at the beginning of February did not spare the famous seaside resort of Viña del Mar, nor its botanical garden.

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Chile: trees that survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb escape the fire

The devastating fire that ravaged Chile at the beginning of February did not spare the famous seaside resort of Viña del Mar, nor its botanical garden. In the more than 100-year-old park, around 90% of the area, which represents several dozen hectares, was ravaged in just an hour last Friday. But several species avoided the flames, including trees that survived the atomic bomb of Hiroshima, offered by Japan to Chile.

A small plain of the 400-hectare botanical garden was, surprisingly, spared from the fire which reduced palm trees, pines and even eucalyptus trees to ashes. Only a few Japanese specimens have remained almost intact: 6 camphor trees, 3 persimmons and 13 ginkgo bilobas. “The fire did not go through this area, but there was very intense heat and the leaves (of the Japanese trees) were toasted, but I am hopeful that they will grow back,” explained garden director Alejandro Peirano to EFE, the Spanish press agency.

The Japanese trees, called Hibakujumoku, arrived at this botanical garden in Chile as part of the Green Legacy Hiroshima program. The Japanese project involves sending seeds from around 100 trees that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 to countries around the world. Although experts had predicted that no vegetation would grow in the city for decades, trees began to sprout again and are still growing almost 80 years later.

In order to save these species, raise awareness of nuclear wars as well as send a message of peace, 40 countries, including Chile, have joined this initiative. Symbols of resistance, perseverance and hope, the twenty-two Hibakujumoku germinated in Japan spent several months in a special nursery, before being planted in October 2022 on the plain of the botanical garden which was not affected by the fire . “These trees are doubly strong. They endured Hiroshima (...) and, if they finally survive the catastrophe we are experiencing, they will be a double symbol,” Peirano told EFE.

Viña del Mar is located in the Valparaiso region, the epicenter of the wave of fires affecting Chile since February 1. Particularly caused by climate change as well as the El Niño phenomenon, which pushed temperatures to extreme levels, the fires have claimed the lives of at least 131 people and destroyed thousands of hectares of vegetation.

Among the victims, one of the garden employees who had contributed significantly for months to the growth of these seeds. Patricia Araya died with her mother and two children, aged nine and one. She had lived for decades, like several park officials, inside the grounds of the Viña del Mar garden.

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