Four Dead in Chile Forest Fire and 500 Homes Destroyed

A large forest fire raging in the Chilean port city of Valparaiso has killed at least four people and destroyed 500 homes, reports The Associated Press.

Thousands of people have been evacuated, including more than 200 female inmates at a prison.

Firefighters were having difficulty combating the fire because of the topography of the city, which is surrounded by dozens of steep hills where most people live.

“This is the worst disaster I have seen,” regional governor Ricardo Bravo said. “Now we fear that the fire will spread to the center of the city, which would increase the severity of the emergency.”

President Michelle Bachelet has declared the city of 250,000 people a catastrophe zone, which puts the armed forces in charge of maintaining order and evacuating thousands of residents affected by the smoke and flames. Authorities have evacuated an estimated 5,000 people, a figure that is expected to rise.

Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said the fire has caused the deaths of four people — three men and a woman.

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