A forest fire is raging in the port city of Valparaiso, Chile and firefighters are unable to get it under control. The topography of the city, built around steep hills, is blamed for the difficulty of fighting the blaze.
The fire is said to have started on Saturday afternoon on the wooded outskirts of the city. The fire was able to spread quickly due to strong winds. The exact cause of the forest fire is not known at this time.
Four people have thus far been confirmed as having been killed by the terrible blaze. Those individuals, three men and a woman, have not been publicly identified.
Mayor Jorge Castro stated that at least 500 homes are thought to have been destroyed by the advancing forest fire.
In addition to the threat from the flames, hot ash from the fire has been raining down on Valparaiso, making it difficult for some citizens to breathe. The elderly and children are said to be the most vulnerable. The situation will likely require special precautions for those who are out of the way of the fire, but still vulnerable to breathing problems.
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Valparaiso is home to approximately 250,000 people. Authorities have already evacuated 5,000 citizens from the path of the fire with more expected to leave should the fire continue unabated.
About 200 women have been evacuated from the city’s prison, including nine pregnant inmates. The expectant mothers were moved to a detention center in nearby Quillota. The other two hundred inmates are being kept in a local sports arena. Prison guard commander Tulio Arce said that there are no immediate plans to evacuate the 2,700 male prisoners.
Regional governor Ricardo Bravo fears that the unrelenting flames may “spread to the center of the city.” The governor also dubbed the fire “the worst disaster” he’d ever seen.
The city has been declared a disaster zone by President Michelle Bachele.
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