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A man looks at the destruction caused by a forest fire in Valparaiso, Chile A man looks at the destruction caused by a forest fire in Valparaiso, Chile  (AFP or licensors)

Investigation launched to determine if Chile wildfires an act of arson

An investigation is launched into wildfires, which have swept through the port city of Valparaiso destroying more than two hundred homes. Authorities are blaming arsonists.

By James Blears

The wildfires swept through the wooded hillsides of Rocuant and San Roque.  Police are investigating reports that vehicles were seen in the area, at the time the fires started. Against an orange skyline,  houses blazed and there`s been a mass evacuation of more than a thousand people.  An ashen Christmas, but mercifully no reported casualties. People have returned to sift through the charred remains including Christmas trees. 

Minister of the Interior Gonzalo Blumel says the fires were started deliberately and the full weight of the law will be applied to those responsible.  Ezio Passadore who`s Valpraiso`s Emergency Manager agrees cautioning: "We`re not certain, but everything indicates that the fires were intentional."  Fire Fighters` helicopters have been dousing down with thousands of gallons of water. The urban area appears to have been quelled, but this isn`t the case in nearby wooded areas.

Listen to James Blears' report

The affected and scorched homes are in a modest income zone, some of which is without domestic running water. Tankers deliver it twice weekly.

Chile`s President Sebastian Pinera has said he`s very sad this has happened, especially at Christmas time.  He`s ordered the creation of a special committee which will help with the reconstruction of homes.  A State of Emergency has been declared by Jorge Sharpe, who`s the Mayor of Valparaiso, which is 113 kms North West of the Capitol Santiago.

This isn`t the first time wildfires have burned tragedy into Valparaiso.  As recently as 2014, blazes destroyed more than two thousand homes, killing twelve people.

26 December 2019, 16:02