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Chile: Forest Fire Causes Death and Destruction in Valparaíso

UPDATE: According to Chilean newspaper El Mercurio [es], on the evening of Monday, April 14, the flames have left 15 dead, 11,000 homeless, 1,140 acres consumed by the fire, and over 2,500 homes burned, according to the authorities’ evaluation. 

On the night of Saturday, April 12, a huge fire [es] consumed over 500 homes in the hills of the coastal Chilean city of Valparaíso. Authorities decided to evacuate 3,000 people and deployed soldiers to the area to help in the disaster. 

By Monday, April 14, 2,000 houses had been consumed by the flames and 17,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes. The fire has caused the deaths of 12 people and has left 8,000 residents homeless. Emergency crews continue working to reduce the flames that are still spreading throughout the hills of the port. Eleven sectors have been affected and 850 acres consumed. 

Incendios-infografia

Infographic published [es] in El Mercurio.

Valparaíso houses the National Congress of Chile and one of the main ports of the country. The historical center of this picturesque city of 250,000 residents was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. That zone was not affected by the fire. 

On her blog Notes from a Reporter, by Angélica Mora [es], the author realized how the fire started and provides more information: 

El siniestro, que abarca ya unas 270 hectáreas, comenzó como un incendio forestal en el camino La Pólvora, pero el fuerte viento hizo que se propagase a las zonas pobladas de los cerros La Cruz, El Vergel, Las Cañas y Mariposas.
[...]
Una enorme columna de humo, que está causando problemas respiratorios, especialmente a la población infantil y a los ancianos, se puede observar a decenas de kilómetros del lugar. En la extinción del incendio, que comenzó minutos después de las 16 del sábado y que fue creciendo a medida que avanzaba la tarde, trabajan unidades de bomberos de seis provincias, policías y equipos aéreos y terrestres de la Corporación Nacional Forestal y la Oficina Nacional de Emergencia.
[...]
La mayoría de las viviendas de Valparaíso, donde viven unas 250.000 personas, están construidas con material ligero, fácilmente inflamable, lo que unido al viento hace que los incendios sean frecuentes, pero no se recuerda alguno de esta magnitud.

The disaster, which already covers some 270 acres, started as a forest fire on La Pólvora road, but the strong wind spread it to the populated hills of La Cruz, El Vergel, Las Cañas, and Mariposas. 
[...]
A huge column of smoke, which is causing respiratory problems, especially among children and the elderly, can be seen dozens of kilometers away. Fire units from six provinces, the police, as well as air and ground teams from the National Forest Service and the National Bureau of Emergency are working to extinguish the fire, which started after 4pm on Saturday and grew as the afternoon wore on.
[...]
Most of the houses in Valparaíso, where about 250,000 people live, are built with lightweight, highly flammable materials, which together with the wind causes frequent fires, but never any of this magnitude.  

Incendio Valparaíso

Photo on Flickr by user retoricaca (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The 4320 blog [es] asked for help for the victims: 

Herramientas de mano. Guantes y bototos de seguridad. Cascos de seguridad. Chalecos refractantes de seguridad. Carretillas de mano. Planchas para auto construcción. Calaminas. Víveres no perecibles. Pañales para niños y adultos. Ropa de cama. Agua. Artículos de aseo. Ropa para niños (en buen estado). Utensilios para la casa. Artículos de colegio para niños y Otros elementos que ustedes estimen pertinentes.

Hand tools. Boots and safety gloves. Safety helmets. Reflecting safety vests. Wheelbarrows. Irons for auto-construction. Corrugated irons. Nonperishable foods. Diapers for children and adults. Bedding. Water. Toiletries. Children's clothing (in good condition). Household utensils. School items for children and other items you deem pertinent. 

Meanwhile, ARG Noticias [es] spread the words of President Michelle Bachelet: 

La presidenta de Chile, Michelle Bachelet, catalogó la tragedia como “el peor incendio de la historia de Valparaíso” y no descarta que la cifra de víctimas fatales pueda aumentar con el paso de las horas. Asimismo, anunció la suspensión de su gira por Argentina que comenzaría mañana [martes 15 de abril] para poder reunirse con su Gobierno y definir una gestión “eficiente” en el Puerto.
La mandataria encabezó ayer [domingo 13] un comité de emergencia en la ciudad portuaria y, por la tarde, visitó dos albergues habilitados en la Parroquia San Juan Bosco y en el colegio Gaspar Cabrales.

The President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, classified the tragedy as “the worst fire in Valparaíso's history” and suspects that the death toll may increase with the passage of time. She also announced the suspension of her tour of Argentina that was set to begin tomorrow [Tuesday, April 15] to be able to meet with her Government and define an “efficient” management of the Port. The president led an emergency committee in the port city yesterday [Sunday, April 13] in the afternoon and visited two shelters set up at the San Juan Bosco parish and the Gaspar Cabrales school. 

Reactions on Twitter have been diverse, like that of BioBio Chile, posting stories of a volunteer firefighter: 

[PHOTOS] Testimony of a volunteer firefighter, hero of the raging fire in Valparaíso.

There were also updates on the fire:

Fire intensity has dropped, but at least three active points remain in Valparaíso.

It could take up to 20 days to extinguish the fire in Valparaíso, warn Chilean rescuers.

Medical Association calls its partners to work together to assist the victims of the #fire in Valparaíso.

On the other hand, other news related to the fire was also reported: 

RT! Here are the centers where you can donate to and help the victims of the fire in Valparaíso.

Young veterinarians attended pets affected by the fire in Valparaíso.

Rape of a girl in the midst of the fire in Valparaíso ended with a beating of the abuser.

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