VALPARAISO (CHILE): Dozens of families found themselves homeless on Christmas after a forest fire in the Chilean tourist port city of Valparaiso burned through two hillside neighbourhoods.
The fire broke out Tuesday, blazing across Rocuant and San Roque hills and continued to burn on Wednesday, though with less intensity. About 200 homes were “affected” by the fire in a matter of hours.
There were no deaths from the fire that had burned 150 hectares (370 acres), though 12 volunteer fire fighters were injured.
Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel said while “there has been a lot of progress in controlling the fire,” it was “not controlled.” Authorities had not yet evaluated the extent of the damage to the affected homes, some of which were destroyed while others sustained varying degrees of damage, the National Emergency Office in Santiago said.
The blaze started in grassy and wooded areas and rapidly advanced to populated neighbourhoods in Valparaiso, about 120 kilometers northwest of Santiago.
“We were preparing for parties when the fire started. It all happened so quickly, we weren’t able to get anything out,” said Fabian Olguin, 28, who lives on Rocuant hill.
“Horrible, terrible to see the homes of my neighbours on fire, my home… Unfortunately we are all homeless,” a tearful Silvia Puga said. The cause of the fire, and that of a smaller blaze, was under investigation.
“There are indications that this fire could be intentional,” Blumel said.