Deadly Chile blaze destroys 500 homes
A fire raging in the Chilean port city of Valparaíso has killed at least seven people and destroyed 500 homes, according to officials. Thousands of residents have been evacuated, including more than 200 inmates at a women’s prison.
Firefighters struggled as high winds rained hot ash over the wooden houses and narrow streets of the city of 250,000, where people use staircases to reach neighbourhoods that hug steep hills between the forest and the sea.
"This is the worst disaster I have seen," said the regional governor, Ricardo Bravo. "Now we fear that the fire will spread to the centre of the city, which would increase the severity of the emergency."
President Michelle Bachelet arrived on Sunday to oversee emergency operations. She declared the city a catastrophe zone, putting Chile's military in charge of maintaining order as the homes of more than 5,000 people were evacuated amid the smoke and flames.
Seven people were confirmed dead, said police general Julio Pineda, and the toll was expected to rise.
It was the worst fire to hit the picturesque seaside city since 1953, when 50 people were killed and every structure was destroyed on several of the city’s hills.