SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A fire that swept through a poor community of the Chilean seaside city of Valparaiso on Christmas Eve has left not only people but hundreds of pets without homes.
A group of veterinarians has responded by setting up a shelter in a nearby school to tend to animals left injured or abandoned.
“She can´t have understood what happened,” said Gilda Medel, a 55-year-old housekeeper, whose cat “Manchita” suffered burns on her legs, ears and fur and has been treated at the shelter.
“I suppose we were lucky to have found her alive, but it hurts the soul to see a little animal like that,” she added, fighting back tears.
Valparaiso, known for its colourful wood-frame houses, is popular with tourists in Chile.
The fire broke out Christmas Eve in a forested area on the outskirts of the city and spread toward the coast, hitting the Rocuant and San Roque hills, a jumble of settlements that overlook Valparaiso, and was only brought fully under control at midday Thursday. The blaze destroyed 245 homes and left 700 people destitute, the authorities said.
Several people returned to the rubble-strewn hillsides to search for their pets, but other animals remained unclaimed.
“We are working with the municipality of Valparaíso to get a temporary home approved for the animals that are in good condition and not injured in the fire, but are now without owners, or owners that have nowhere for them to stay because their homes were destroyed,” veterinarian Samuel Tapia said.
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Fabian Cambero and Aislinn Laing; Editing by Leslie Adler