By Bala Chambers
LONDON (AA) - Two people have died after a helicopter which was working to extinguish fires in Argentina’s Patagonia region crashed, authorities said on Wednesday.
One pilot and mechanic were aboard the Bell 412 helicopter tackling the forest fires, according to the national news agency, Telam.
The aircraft fell in an area of Quillen, a lake located in Alumine of Neuquen province, located some 1,000 km south of Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires.
The fire in Quillen has so far affected more than 4,000 hectares.
The helicopter had been ordered by the provincial government to aid in ongoing efforts to combat the fires which are hitting the areas of Patagonia.
Over 200 firefighters and around a dozen aircraft have been working hard to combat fires in Nahuel Huapi National Park, the Andean Comarca and Alumine, a zone which is home to forests, lakes and mountains.
The Federal Council of the Environment (Cofema) of Argentina and the Argentine Ministry of the Environment have declared an emergency throughout Argentina for 12 months due to the risk of fires.
Currently, seven of the 24 districts of Argentina are affected by the blazes -- Santa Fe, Neuquen, Chubut, Rio Negro, Misiones, Formosa and San Luis.
The most difficult blaze to control is close to Bariloche, according to Deputy Environment Minister Sergio Federovisky who said "there is a scenario of a huge drought, which for two years has been affecting the entire country”.
Federovisky added the drought has affected the Patagonian region as “there was practically no snow during the winter.”
To date in 2021, fires have devastated more than 300,000 hectares across Argentina.