News / Americas

As Fires Die Down, Chileans Return to Ravaged Valparaiso

A resident whose home was destroyed by a major fire sits amid the destruction in Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.
A resident whose home was destroyed by a major fire sits amid the destruction in Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.
Reuters
Devastated Chileans surveyed damage to their homes in Valparaiso on Monday as a massive fire that burned poor neighborhoods of the coastal city over the weekend began to die down.
 
Firefighters were still battling blazes which killed 13 people, consumed 2,150 acres (870 hectares) and burned 2,000 homes. But authorities said the worst was likely over.
 
Fed by high temperatures and strong winds, the flames moved from forest areas at the top of the hilly city on Saturday night and destroyed large swaths of predominantly low-income, wooden houses.
 
Many of the victims in the city, part gritty port and part colorful retreat, were poor people in houses perched high on the city's remote hills.
 
Nearly 1,200 portenos, as Valparaiso residents are called, are sleeping in emergency shelters and need water, food, cleaning products, clothes, school supplies and hygiene products.
 
“People are shattered; their homes are in tatters,” said volunteer Carolina Diaz.
 
  • Destroyed houses are seen after a forest fire burned several neighborhoods in the hills in Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.
  • Emergency responders watch as an out of control forest fire destroys homes in the city of Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.
  • A resident helps to extinguish flames as an out of control forest fire destroys homes in the city of Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.
  • Firefighters take a break from battling blazes after an out of control forest fire reached urban areas in Valparaiso, Chile, April 14, 2014.
  • A man cries next to the remains of his house after a forest fire destroyed it in Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.
  • Residents gather in a shelter after a forest fire burned several neighborhoods in the hills of Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.
  • Residents walk up the stairs after a forest fire burned several neighborhoods in the hills in Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.
  • A volunteer gives a donkey water at the location where a forest fire burned several neighborhoods in Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.
  • Firefighters try to put out a fire that burned several neighborhoods in the hills in Valparaiso, Chile, April 13, 2014.

Chileans are grappling with the Andean country's second big disaster in just two weeks after a massive 8.2 magnitude quake slammed northern Chile on April 1.
 
The crises are big and early tests for President Michelle Bachelet, just a month into her term, which she had expected to be defined by ambitious reform plans.
 
Her center-left government announced on Monday it has asked neighboring Argentina to lend back-up firefighting capacity as Chile's resources were focused on Valparaiso.
 
“We will make all necessary resources available to tackle this catastrophe,” spokesman Alvaro Elizalde said. “The situation is frankly devastating.”
 
Spark Unknown
 
Preliminary investigations indicate there was no foul play behind the fire, Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said on Monday, adding the cause of the blaze remained unclear.
 
Some local media have reported birds electrocuted by power lines may have sparked a fire. A fifth year of drought in central Chile meant fire danger was high.
 
A United Nations report on Sunday warned that governments must act faster to keep global warming in check, or face even more heat waves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.
 
The spread of the fires was accelerated by a shortage of fire hydrants, firewalls and well-equipped fire fighters in Valparaiso, which regularly faces smaller forest fires.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Brazil Presidential Race Gets One More Candidate

Environmentalist Marina Silva to join contest for Socialist Party candidate; vote to be held October 5
More

Guatemalan General Killed in Copter Crash Near Mexico Border

General Rudy Ortiz was among five people killed; cause under investigation; weather said to have been possible factor
More

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month
More

Pope's Relatives Killed in Argentina Car Crash

Family of pontiff's nephew killed after car plows into truck
More

Ex-Guatemalan Drug Kingpin Pleads Guilty to US Charges

Waldemar Lorenzana Lima, linked by authorities to Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel, pleaded guilty to conspiring to import more than 450 kilograms of Colombian cocaine into US
More

Landmark Brazil Poll Brings Good News for Rousseff

Facing tough road to re-election, Rousseff has seen sharp recovery in approval ratings, voter support
More