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Fire ravages Valparaiso, sends people fleeing for their lives

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By Robert Hackwill
Fire ravages Valparaiso, sends people fleeing for their lives

A large fire has burnt out a neighbourhood in the Chilean city of Valparaiso, destroying at least 100 homes and forcing the evacuation of about 400 people.

Another 500 homes are at risk.

Firefighters from nearly 50 city and surrounding municipal brigades have been deployed.

Already-poor people have been desperately scrambling to save what they can from their homes as the smoke billows in the sky above them. Fridges, televisions and furniture pile up in the streets, but have to be abandoned as the flames advance. People are losing everything but the clothes on their backs.

Chile is in the longest drought in its history, with some regions rain-free for the last six years. Gusting winds and high temperatures helped the fire to spread quickly, which also fed on trash dumped in the hilly city outskirts’ many ravines.

In 2014, a significantly larger fire killed 13 people and burned 2,000 homes. There have been many smaller fires since.

Mayor Jorge Sharp went on television to call for state assistance and stress the vulnerability of the city’s outlying areas.