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Chile port city devastated by wildfire

At least 11 people have died and 1,000 houses have been destroyed in the country's second major disaster this month.

Last updated: 13 Apr 2014 22:32
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Thousands fled as about 1,200 firefighters attempted to control the blaze [AP]

At least 11 people have died after a forest fire raged through the Chilean port city of Valparaiso.

The fire started on Saturday and destroyed more than 700 hectares of forest and at least 1,000 homes, forcing thousands to flee, according to local authorities.

"We fled from the La Cruz neighbourhood, from an apartment I just got not too long ago. It's all burnt down, my sister's house also burned to the ground," said one resident, Rosa Guzman.

About 1,200 firefighters battled the blaze, dropping water on the flames by plane and helicopter. 

"It is still not completely extinguished," said Ricardo Bravo, a local government official, referring to lingering pockets of fire still burning in parts of the city.

Valparaiso's hills and closely built houses, many of them made of wood, make it difficult to combat fires.

Michelle Bachelet, Chile's president, declared a state of emergency and sent the army to maintain order in the city. Marines patrolled the streets while ambulance crews treated people for smoke inhalation and other injuries.

This is the second emergency that Bachelet has faced in the first month of her new term, after an 8.2 magnitude earthquake hit northern Chile at the beginning of April.

Weather forecasts predict high temperatures and strong winds later on Sunday, a combination that could worsen the disaster if the remaining flames are not put out in time.

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Source:
Reuters
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