Deadly fire blazes in Valparaíso

By Sandra Segall
Published On : Sun, Apr 13th, 2014

Thousands evacuated, homes destroyed and lives are lost as blaze spreads to seventh hill in Valparaíso.

Deadly fire blazes in Valparaíso

A fire which has already left at least 11 dead and destroyed more than 500 homes is burning in Valparaíso.

The blaze started just after 4 p.m. Saturday on a forest road connecting the top of the hills which ring the port city. Thousands were without power Saturday night, with the flames the only source of light. Accompanying this near-darkness were regular blasts thoughout the night as gas cannisters used for cooking in most homes were consumed by the blaze. The fire also affected water supply, leading to shortages across the city.

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On Sunday, the fire spread to a seventh hill. In the area where the blaze has already swept through, people have returned to clear up the debris where their home once stood.

Caravans of volunteers are leading relief efforts, carrying water and food to the affected neighborhoods on the hills,  many of which are impoverished and have poor access. While many of those helping are on foot, trucks laden with relief goods are also present, weaving their way up the steep, winding streets towards the smouldering ruins left behind by last night’s blaze.

Not all of those wandering the streets are volunteers, though. Some search the streets, looking for loved ones lost in the chaos hours earlier.

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Schools in the center of the city are being used as shelters, after 10,000 people were evacuated Saturday, with further evacuations Sunday. Volunteers are handing out goods in front of the shelters.

In Parque Italia an emergency veterinary clinic has been set up, and volunteers are scanning the hills for wounded animals which may also need medical care.

Authorities advise people not to drink tap water in the city.

Initial reports cited 16 lives were lost, but Carabineros revised the number to 11 late Sunday.

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Photos & article by Sandra Segall
Copyright 2014 – The Santiago Times

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