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Friday 21 July 2017

Forest fire destroys homes in hills above Chilean port city

People try to put out a fire driven by strong winds in Valparaiso (AP/Luis Hidalgo)
People try to put out a fire driven by strong winds in Valparaiso (AP/Luis Hidalgo)

Fire driven by strong winds swept over forest land in the hills outside the Chilean port of Valparaiso, destroying dozens of homes and injuring at least 19 people.

The a uthorities said the blaze started on Monday afternoon in the Laguna Verde area and spread to Playa Ancha hill, where many wooden houses are located. About 400 people were ordered to evacuate as a precaution.

Interior undersecretary Mahmud Aleuy said about 100 homes had been damaged, and Governor Gabriel Aldoney said 500 more houses were "at risk". Mr Aleuy said 16 of those injured had respiratory problems.

Firefighters, soldiers and forest workers were in the hills combating the blaze, which was fuelled by winds up to 25mph, low humidity and high temperatures. The operation was complicated because the area includes many ravines, the roads are narrow and water mains are scarce.

People in Valparaiso wore masks if they ventured into the streets trying to protect themselves against the smoke and fumes.

In 2014, a forest fire destroyed 2,500 homes and killed 15 people in the hills that surround Valparaiso. The colonial-era city known for colourfully painted cliff-top houses was designated a UN World Heritage Site in 2003.

AP

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