6,000 evacuated as forest fire sweeps through central Chile

March 13, 2017 10:30 pm

A helicopter makes a water drop to prevent a wildfire from spreading to homes in Vina del Mar, , on March 12, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Around 6,000 people have been forced from their homes in Chile as firefighters struggle to contain a massive blaze sweeping through forests in central parts of the country.
Emergency officials said Monday that more than a dozen dwellings had been destroyed in the forested areas of Vina del Mar, a popular resort area in Valparaiso region, located about 120 kilometers west of the capital Santiago.
Ricardo Toro, the director of the National Office of Emergencies of the Interior Ministry (ONEMI), said no one was killed or injured in the blaze, but added that hundreds of poor families were forced to leave their illegally-built houses of wood and tin.
Troops were deployed to help people carry their personal belongings in vehicles as forest brigades and firefighters fought the blaze, which tore through 230 hectares in a matter of a few hours.

Residents work to prevent a wildfire from spreading to their homes in Vina del Mar, Chile, on March 12, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Chile’s forest are mostly triggered by human activity while strong winds and soaring temperatures normally help the blaze expand through the country’s parched forests during the southern hemisphere’s summer.
Officials said they had launched an investigation into the cause of the fire in Vina del Mar.
Classes were suspended for Monday as families, who lost their homes and were being housed in shelters, could not reach schools.

This photo released on March 12, 2017 shows firefighters working to put out a forest fire in Valparaiso, Chile. (via AFP)

Firefighting would continue Monday with additional brigades and helicopters, authorities said. Vina del Mar and Valparaiso were put on alert as there was fear that flames could reach camps sheltering people.
Fire activity was anticipated in central Chile this year due to a drought attributed by environmentalists to climate change.
Eleven people were killed earlier this year in the south of the country, where forest fires destroyed large swaths of land.
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