A fire that broke out in the Chilean seaside resort of Vina del Mar on Thursday killed at least two people and damaged or destroyed about 400 homes, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency.
The flames, fanned by strong gusts of wind, spread within hours from the upper reaches of the city down through ravines and hills to the lowest and most populated parts of the city, some 120 kilometers from Santiago.
The fire, which has already burned about 110 hectares, has “rapid spread, high heat intensity and spread,” said the National Emergencies Bureau (ONEMI).
Several neighborhoods and an informal settlement have been ordered to evacuate.
Given the intensity of the fire, President Gabriel Boric’s government declared a state of emergency.
“The President of the Republic has ordered the declaration of a constitutional state of emergency from disasters due to a public disaster in the Valparaiso region, where Vina del Mar is located,” said Manuel Monsalve, deputy secretary to the Minister of the Interior.
“There was a very quick response to the outbreak of the fire, but despite this, it spread very aggressively and rapidly due to the location where the fire developed, the weather conditions, the wind and the presence of combustible material,” Monsalve said.
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The fire was fanned by wind gusts of 40 to 50 kilometers per hour, making work difficult for firefighters and forest rangers.
In addition to several units from the Santiago metropolitan region, 400 firefighters and 150 forest rangers are fighting the fire.
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Two deaths confirmed
The city’s fire department commander, Patricio Brito, confirmed the deaths of two people and revised the number of damaged homes from 200 to 400.
“The fire broke out in an area called Nueva Esperanza 2000,” Vina del Mar Mayor Macarena Ripamonti said, adding that it was progressing north toward Quinta Vergara, a large park that hosts the annual International Song Festival of the city takes place.
Boric tweeted those affected “We will not leave you”.
“Our priority as the Chilean government is people’s safety and we will continue to deploy all necessary resources to control the emergency,” he said.
Controlling the fire will take at least a few days, said Luis Correa, the Valparaiso director of Chile’s national forest service Conaf.
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