Fires engulf city in Chile, burn 100 homes

January 3, 2017 2:00 pm

Smoke billows from the forest around Valparaiso, in , on January 02, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A massive wildfire has erupted on the outskirts of the hilly Chilean port city of Valparaiso, leaving at least 100 homes gutted and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people.
The blaze which broke out in the Laguna Verde area and spread to Playa Ancha hill on Monday also left 19 people slightly injured, deputy interior minister Mahmud Aleuy told reporters.
The fire, he said, forced the evacuation of nearly 400 people and sent plumes of smoke high into the air. It initially caused power outage for 47,000 customers in the region.
According to Aleuy, the flames have “damaged 100 homes” in the area while regional governor Gabriel Aldoney said 500 more houses were “at risk.”
About 50 fire brigades from Valparaiso and neighboring municipalities as well as water-dumping airplanes and helicopters were combating the blaze.

Firefighters work to extinguish flames at a house in Valparaiso, Chile, on January 2, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

President Michelle Bachelet said in a tweet that emergency protocols had been activated. The government said an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire.
According to authorities, the blaze was fueled by strong winds up to 25 miles per hour (30 kph), low humidity and high temperatures. It was also blamed on poor sanitation as trash deposited in small ravines that run throughout Valparaiso helped feed it.
“We don’t have any way to prevent people from throwing trash into Valparaiso’s gullies,” Aleuy said. “We insist that it’s not just the civil system that has to do preventative work. People have to do it too.”
Valparaiso is a picturesque colonial-era city and a major tourist destination that was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.
Some 15 people were killed and more than 2,000 homes burned when a larger forest fire hit the city in 2014.
Many blazes have hit Valparaiso since then with fires in March 2015 claiming the live of one woman and forcing thousands of people to evacuate.
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