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Chile fire toll: 11 dead, 1,000 homes destroyed

Associated Press

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VALPARAISO, CHILE: A raging fire leaped from hilltop to hilltop in this colorful port city throughout the night and day on Sunday, killing at least 11 people and destroying at least 1,000 homes. More than 10,000 people were evacuated, including more than 200 female inmates at a prison.

And with hot dry winds stoking the embers, the fires were still burning out of control as a second night approached. The fire began Saturday afternoon in a forested area above ramshackle housing on one of the city’s 42 hilltops, and spread quickly as hot ash rained down over wooden houses and narrow streets.

Electricity failed as the fire grew, with towering, sparking flames turning the night sky orange over a darkening, destroyed horizon.

Eventually, neighborhoods on six hilltops were reduced to ashes, including one hill just several blocks from Chile’s parliament building.

“It’s a tremendous tragedy. This could be the worst fire in the city’s history,” President Michelle Bachelet said as crews contained most of the fire, mobilizing 20 helicopters and planes to drop water on hot spots.


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