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Valparaiso counts the cost

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By Catherine Hardy  with AP
Valparaiso counts the cost

Residents have begun assessing the extent of the damage from a fire that has swept over the hills outside the Chilean port city of Valparaiso.

What happened?

The fire broke out on Monday.

Television footage showed huge brown-gray columns of smoke emanating from a neighbourhood high in one of the city’s hills.

The blaze destroyed dozens of homes and injured at least 19 people.

An estimated 400 people were evacuated from their homes.

47,000 customers were affected by a power cut, but this was later restored to all but 350.

Firefighter watches his own house burn

Firefighter Juan Carlos Espinoza is a rescuer but also a victim.

“I work as a lifeguard during the Summer. I was on the beach when I saw the large plume of smoke so I made my way over.”

“When I arrived on the scene, I could see my own house was one of those that had been burnt to the ground.”

Why did the fire take hold?

The authorities say the blaze was fanned by gusty winds and high temperatures.

Poor sanitation was also to blame as the fire fed on rubbish deposited in small ravines that run through the city.

Is this the first time it has happened?


In 2014, a forest fire destroyed 2,500 homes and killed 15 people in the hills that surround Valparaiso.

Valaparaiso – “scenic but gritty”

The scenic but gritty port city of 285,000 is the centre of a metropolitan area of around one million people.

It is the second largest urban district in Chile.

The colonial-era city is known for its colourfully-painted cliff-top houses.

Built on steep hillsides in an area covered in pines, many of the city’s wooden structures are susceptible to fire, especially in the poorer neighbourhoods higher in the hills.

It was designated a World Heritage site in 2003.

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