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Efforts to Fight Fires in Southern Chile Continue

Israeli tourist Rotem Singer, left, arrives at a court in Punta Arenas, Chile, Saturday Dec. 31, 2011.

Authorities in southern Chile are still fighting numerous fires that have raged for several days, destroying more than 23,000 hectares of forest as well as dozens of homes.

Reports say the worst of the blazes was concentrated in Chile's southern Bio Bio region, where as many as 162 homes went up in flames, along with a timber mill. In one area, an elderly man died after refusing warnings to leave his home.

Chilean authorities recently arrested an Israeli tourist, then released him on bond on suspicion of starting a huge forest fire in the Torres del Paine national park. The 23-year-old suspect, Rotem Singer, has been ordered to remain in Chile pending his trial. He faces a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $300 fine if found guilty.

Prosecutors say that during a court hearing Saturday, he admitted to not properly putting out paper he set on fire in the park.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.