Chile: Fire in Valparaíso destroys over 100 homes on Christmas Eve

SANTIAGO – At least 120 homes have been damaged in forest fires raging near the Chilean port city of Valparaíso, officials said on Tuesday.

Several districts in the west of the capital have been evacuated, the fire department said on Twitter.

According to the civil defence agency, an area of 100 hectares was affected by the fires. This corresponds to about 140 football fields.

Inhabitants fled their homes in the middle of Christmas Eve festivities, some losing all their belongings and even pets. The blaze, fed by high Southern Hemisphere summer temperatures and strong winds, started in a forested area and spread to the city, firefighters said.

Mayor Jorge Sharp said the fires had been started “intentionally”. There have been no reports of any casualties.

On Twitter, President Sebastián Piñera said: “We deeply regret the fire that affects so many families in the hills of Valparaíso and especially on Christmas Eve.”

Valparaíso, on the Pacific coast, is built on numerous hills. The old town with its historic houses, steep streets and stairs is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is popular among tourists in the South American country.