Eleven dead in Valparaiso blaze, 500 houses destroyed

VALPARAISO, Chile Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:32pm IST

1 of 2. A forest fire burns in Valparaiso city, northwest of Santiago, April 12, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Cesar Pincheira

VALPARAISO, Chile (Reuters) - At least 11 people were killed and 500 houses destroyed over the weekend by a fire that ripped 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 authorities said.

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 stubbornly remained.

"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.

(Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Fighting Ebola

Reuters Showcase

Fighting IS

Fighting IS

U.S. says won't unleash "shock and awe" air campaign in Syria.  Full Article 

Typhoon Kalmaegi

Typhoon Kalmaegi

Typhoon spares Hong Kong, but disrupts business.  Full Article 

Independence Vote

Independence Vote

Ahead of independence vote, Britain pledges state funding to Scotland.  Full Article 

Hungry World

Hungry World

World hunger easing but 1 in 9 people undernourished - food agencies.  Full Article 

Afghan Attack

Afghan Attack

Suicide car bomber kills 3 foreign troops in Afghan capital.  Full Article 

Border Standoff

Border Standoff

India says to defend China border after standoff ahead of Xi visit.  Full Article 

Reconstructing Gaza

Reconstructing Gaza

U.N. says Palestinians, Israelis reach deal on Gaza reconstruction.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage