Death toll in Valparaiso wildfire rises to 16 – 10,000 residents evacuated, 500 homes consumed – ‘It’s been one of the worst fires in history’Posted by Jim at Sunday, April 13, 2014
By Nelson Quinones and Matt Smith; with additional reporting by Michael Roa and Ben Brumfield
13 April 2014
(CNN) – Chile poured firefighters and police into the battle against a wildfire that swept through hundreds of homes in the Pacific coastal city of Valparaiso, leaving at least 16 dead, according to Chile's National Emergency Office's website. The site is attributing that number to police.
The death toll was previously at 11 as officials warned that they expected it to increase. More than 1,200 firefighters worked to control the wind-whipped blaze in Valparaiso and the suburb of Vina del Mar, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said Sunday. About 500 homes had been destroyed by Sunday morning, and 10,000 people had been forced to flee, Bachelet said.
The wind hampered firefighters' ability to create firebreaks, and the blaze had spread to nearly 2,000 acres, according to Chile's National Emergency Office.
“It's been one of the worst fires in history,” said Fernando Reseio, the fire superintendent in Vina del Mar.
Bachelet said the firefighters were backed up by 17 aircraft and that additional police were being brought in to prevent looting in the areas abandoned by their residents. Many of the survivors suffered burns, and the most seriously burned patients were being transferred to hospitals in the capital, Santiago, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, the president said.
In images broadcast by CNN sister network CNN Chile, residents could be seen fleeing the flames overnight. The network reported that the sweeping fire is endangering thousands more homes.
In addition, plans were being drawn up to evacuate inmates at Valparaiso prison as a preventive measure, Mayor Jorge Castro said. The city is under a red alert, said emergency office spokesman Ricardo Toro.
Earlier, Bachelet had declared a state of emergency, which legally allows armed forces to get involved.
13 April 2014 (EFE) – At least 16 people have died in a huge fire that is still burning in the hillside neighborhoods surrounding the Chilean capital in Valparaiso, the Carabineros militarized police force said Sunday.
Some 10,000 residents have been evacuated and more than 500 homes have been destroyed in the blaze, the largest in the history of this port city, where 250,000 people live and where Chile's parliament and navy are headquartered.
Some 20 aircraft, including helicopters and cistern planes, are being used to combat the fire's many active foci, while on the ground more than 3,500 men belonging to the forestry brigades, firefighters, police, army and navy are working to control the blaze.
The streets of Valparaiso are being patrolled by soldiers, in accord with the state of emergency decreed Saturday by President Michelle Bachelet, who declared the city a disaster zone.
The president arrived at the Valparaiso City Hall early Sunday morning to head up an emergency committee after it had announced that aid would be provided to those who had suffered property damage from the fire, which started on Saturday.
Weather conditions are not helping authorities extinguish the fire - with heavy winds and unusually high temperatures in the zone for this time of year, the Southern Hemisphere's autumn - although officials say they are confident that they can bring it under control within the coming hours.