Monday 20 November 2017

Huge blaze devastates historic city in Chile

People watch as a forest fire rages towards urban areas in the city of Valparaiso, Chile, Saturday April 13, 2014.
People watch as a forest fire rages towards urban areas in the city of Valparaiso, Chile, Saturday April 13, 2014.
Smoke from a forest fire is seen in Valparaiso city, northwest of Santiago, April 12, 2014.
Residents survey the damage after a forest fire burned homes in Valparaiso city, northwest of Santiago, April 13, 2014. 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.
Sparks fly carried by the wind as a large forest fire reaches urban areas in Valparaiso, Chile, Sunday April 13, 2014.
A resident reacts at the location where a forest fire burned several neighbourhoods in the hills in Valparaiso city, northwest of Santiago, April 13, 2014.
Residents remove their belongings as a forest fire burns through several neighbourhoods in the hills in Valparaiso city, northwest of Santiago.
Residents remove their belongings as a forest fire burns through several neighbourhoods in the hills in Valparaiso city, northwest of Santiago, April 12, 2014.

Harriet Alexander, London

A HUGE fire has engulfed a Chilean port city registered as a World Heritage site for its historic collection of wooden buildings and railways.

Eleven people have been killed and at least 500 homes destroyed in the hillsides of Valparaiso, known as the "San Francisco of the South" for its steep streets, trams and funicular railways. Fanned by strong winds from the Pacific, the fire blazed through more than 1,700 acres of forest and residential areas that sweep up from the port.

"Valparaiso is without electricity at the moment," said Jorge Castro, the mayor of the city of 270,000.

"This means the flame column is creating a Dante-esque panorama, and is advancing in an apparently uncontrollable manner."

Some 1,200 firemen were battling the blaze, using three planes and four helicopters to drop water, but could not prevent the destruction of entire districts. By yesterday morning, the scale of the devastation was clear.

"This is the worst catastrophe I've seen," said Ricardo Bravo, the regional governor. "Now we have to make sure the fire doesn't reach the city centre."

Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean president, declared a state of emergency and sent the army to patrol the streets and prevent looting. "It's a tremendous tragedy, perhaps the worst fire in the city's history", she said.

The country's Congress – which has been housed in Valparaiso, rather than the capital Santiago, since the days of General Augusto Pinochet – and the city's historic quarter, with its late 19th century architecture, were spared by the fires. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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