At Least 12 Dead and Thousands of Homes Destroyed in Chile Fires

Strong winds pushed a forest fire on the outskirts of Valparaiso, Chile into urban areas, destroying at least 2,000 homes, killing at least 12 people and injuring some 500 more. Chilean officials said the death toll would likely climb once structures stopped burning and authorities could enter and search for remains, reports

But it could be days before emergency workers get access to all the areas. The fires were still raging Monday, and the country’s forestry agency said it could take up to 20 days before the fires are completely extinguished.

“This won’t be extinguished, not today nor tomorrow,” Chile’s national emergency office tweeted after issuing a new alert when fires kicked up again Sunday afternoon.

More than 10,000 people were evacuated from the city and shelters were overflowing with evacuees. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared the entire city a disaster zone, deploying troops to maintain order and stave off looting. A water emergency was also declared, cutting off supply in downtown areas to provide firefighters with water to fight the blazes.

The fire started Saturday on one of Valparaiso’s many hilltops and quickly spread as gusting winds rained sparks onto the tightly packed structures, lighting them ablaze. Entire neighborhoods on six hilltops were burned to the ground. Firefighters and emergency crews thought they had most of the blaze contained Sunday morning, but the fire rekindled Sunday afternoon in the city’s Cerro Ramaditas section and quickly consumed more homes, as seen in live coverage on several Chilean television networks.

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