Fire in Chile: 15 dead, thousands homeless

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A massive fire in Chile’s historic port city of Valparaiso has left 15 people dead and thousands homeless.

Chile’s Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said on Tuesday that the blaze have forced the evacuation of around 11,000 people so far and that local emergency units are evacuating 700 more families whose homes could be lost if the winds shifted.

More than 500 people are injured and about 2,500 homes are destroyed by the inferno, which has consumed 1,140 hectares (2,817 acres), he added.

According to reports, Valparaiso’s poorer neighborhoods, perched precariously on the coastal city’s hillsides, were hit the hardest by the incident.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared the ravaged port city of Valparaiso a disaster zone, allowing the armed forces to coordinate mass evacuations and maintain law and order in the city.

“We are in an ongoing emergency situation,” Defense Minister Jorge Burgos told local radio, adding that the fire poses “a very complex situation.”

At least 11 helicopters, six planes and 2,000 police and soldiers, in addition to battalions of firefighters, are battling the blaze that ripped through Valparaiso on April 12.

Chile’s forestry agency said it could take up to three weeks before the fire is completely put out.

Valparaiso, located about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of the capital city of Santiago, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003.

The blaze sparked the second mass evacuation in the city. The first major evacuation occurred after the city was at the center of a tsunami alert following an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in the country’s north on April 1, which left six people dead.

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