independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Welder arrested over forest fire

Houses burn during a fire in Chile (AP)

Chilean police have arrested a man they say is responsible for the worst forest fire in decades in the hills above the port of Valparaiso.

Police say the 27-year-old confessed to accidentally igniting the blaze with a welder's torch. Police did not release the suspect's name.

"He's a worker from the RVC (construction) company who was cutting steel panels with a welder's torch," a police spokesman told state TV.

"We arrived at his home, and he confessed," a spokesman added. "Everything points to an accident, but we'll need to determine if someone else is responsible. For now, he's the one."

Chile's emergency office, Onemi, issued a red alert after the blaze broke out on Thursday in the city's San Roque hill, some 75 miles north-east of the capital, Santiago.

The fire destroyed more than 100 homes and forced the evacuation of more than 1,200 people. At least 27 people were injured, including five children.

Strong, changing winds and hot, dry weather at the height of the southern hemisphere's summer holiday season helped stoke the fire.

President Sebastian Pinera cut his vacation short to visit the victims on Friday at shelters. He vowed to rebuild the area and give everyone new homes.

Press Association

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