Thousands of people were evacuated from around the Chilean city of Valparaiso Friday, as a raging forest fire threatened homes, and the government declared a state of emergency. The fire is said to have started in an illegal refuse dump and spread quickly, aided by strong winds.
“We have taken the decision to declare a state of emergency in Vina del Mar and Valparaiso... and preventive evacuation in a range from 4,000 to 16,000 people, depending on the progress of the fire,” Deputy Interior Secretary Mahmud Aleuy told Agence France-Presse.
The country's Emergency Office estimated that about 740 acres had been affected by the blaze, which is close to the port cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. So far, three firefighters have been injured and taken to hospital and a 67-year-old woman died of cardiorespiratory causes, the interior ministry said, according to a BBC report.
Firefighters were working into the night to prevent the fire from reaching homes in the city, which was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2003. Valparaiso is a city of primarily wooden houses, and poorer areas mostly comprise wooden huts, but thus far no homes have been affected, emergency service agency Onemi told Reuters.
Forest fires are common in Chile. A blaze in April last year destroyed 2,900 homes in the area around Valparaiso, killing 15 people and injuring more than 500, according to the Associated Press.