Chile: Valparaiso residents survey ruins as wildfire dies down

Chile: Valparaiso residents survey ruins as wildfire dies down
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Volunteers have been joining army troops and firefighters in helping stricken residents of Valparaiso in Chile as the wildfire that ravaged parts of the coastal city began to die down.

The fire is known to have killed 15 people, destroyed 2,500 homes and left 11,000 homeless.

Poor neighbourhoods have suffered the most, where wooden houses perched on wind-battered hillsides were at the mercy of the advancing flames.

Fredy Trivino’s family threw down beer and soda to try to keep the wood damp.

“When the firefighters arrived they didn’t have any water… They couldn’t do anything. The soda and the beer is what saved us,” the young man said.

As well as the wind and the heat, critics blame a lack of urban planning and official neglect of Valparaiso’s poor districts – allowing homes to spread chaotically with few or no amenities.

“We are making all possible resources available to confront this tragedy – firstly by relocating and supporting affected families – and in a second phase, with reconstruction,” said the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who has declared a disaster zone.

More than 1,000 Valparaiso residents are in emergency shelters, in need of food, water and other essential items. Chileans have rallied with donations; fundraising football matches have been held.

An emergency shelter for injured animals has also been set up.

The fire has eased since the weekend but the authorities fear that pockets could flare up again.

Better weather is forecast for Tuesday, bringing cooler, less windy and more humid conditions that could help firefighters.

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