Smoke from the fire billows over Valparaiso. REUTERS/Cesar Pincheira
At least 11 people have been killed and 1000 houses destroyed
by a fire that is ripping through parts of Chilean port city
Valparaiso, as authorities evacuated thousands and used
aircraft to battle the blaze.
Pushed by strong Pacific coast winds, the fire rampaged over
700 hectares (1,729 acres) of forest and hilly residential
neighborhoods including La Cruz and Las Canas, local
Some 1,200 firefighters were battling the blaze, using three
planes and four helicopters to drop water on the flames.
The fire started on Saturday, with most of its damage done
overnight. At daybreak on Sunday, Valparaiso was a
stench-filled scene of smoke, ash and sirens as residents
picked through the remains of their homes and firefighters
struggled to put out active points of the blaze that
"It is still not completely extinguished," said local
government official Ricardo Bravo.
Weather forecasts called for high temperatures and strong
winds on Sunday afternoon, a combination that could
exacerbate the disaster if the remaining flames were not put
out in time.
"We fled from the La Cruz neighborhood, from an apartment I
just got not too long ago. It's all burned down, my sister's
house also burnt to the ground," said a visibly upset Rosa
Guzman as she stared helplessly up at the hills.
The country's Congress, which is housed in Valparaiso, and
the city's historic quarter, with its late 19th century
architecture, were spared by the blaze.
There were no reports that exports of copper in the world's
No.1 producer of the metal were affected by the fire.
President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of emergency and
sent the army in to maintain order. Marines patrolled the
streets while ambulance crews treated people for smoke
inhalation and other injuries.
This is the second emergency that Bachelet has had to face in
the first month of her new term after an 8.2 earthquake
slammed northern Chile at the start of April.