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A house burns following the spread of wildfires in Valparaiso, Chile
A house burns following the spread of wildfires in Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso fires may have been set intentionally, says Chilean president

ANI | Updated: Dec 27, 2019 08:37 IST

Santiago [Chile], Dec. 27 (ANI): Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday said there are indications that the forest fire in Valparaiso city, which has destroyed at least 245 houses nearby, may have been set intentionally.
"There is some evidence that this could have been an intentional fire. If this is true, it would be extraordinarily serious," the president said after visiting Valparaiso, where he set up an emergency committee to deal with the fire, Xinhua reported.
He added that the police, as well as the national prosecutor's office, are working together to find out the cause of the fires so that "the people will be identified and prosecuted with the full force of the law."
Pinera said that more than 90 per cent of wildfires in Chile are caused by human activities, with more than one-third of them started intentionally.
The president also said that all the three fires in Valparaiso are under control and will soon be extinguished.
According to the latest report from the Chilean National Office for Emergency, the fires have destroyed about 132.6 hectares of vegetation in Valparaiso and caused damage that has yet to be assessed to around 245 houses in the areas of Cerro Rocuant and Cerro San Roque.
Pinera announced that a housing subsidy program for those affected families who are going to buy new homes or rebuild the ones that were destroyed will take effect in early 2020.
Chile's first lady, Cecilia Morel, told the state media that she planned to hold a Christmas dinner with the affected families "as soon as conditions permit."
Hundreds of firefighters struggled to control the fast-moving blaze, which continued into Christmas Day and was made worse by dry weather and strong winds. Military units and helicopters were deployed to help battle the flames and residents were evacuated to shelters.
Located about 70 miles (113 kilometres) northwest of the capital Santiago on Chile's coast, Valparaiso is a popular tourist destination known for its colourful houses, idyllic hills and its historic old town.
The city has been ravaged by wildfires in the past as well. In 2014, at least 12 people died and 2,000 homes were destroyed when a dangerous wildfire tore through the city. (ANI)