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15 Dead And 500 Injured As Wildfires Besiege Chile

More than 2,000 homes have also been destroyed as flames engulf the port city Valparaíso.

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Fifteen people have died and 500 more were injured as raging wildfires spread through the Chilean coastal city of Valparaíso.

Stringer/Chile / Reuters

The national forensics service said most of the bodies are too badly burned to identify without DNA tests.

The majority of those injured are being treated at hospitals for smoke inhalation, which has particularly affected young children and the elderly.

The fires first started on Saturday afternoon and quickly spread due to strong winds. As a result of their intense heat, they created their own winds, engulfing entire communities and destroying homes.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said the fires had grown to "dimensions never before seen".

AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo

"We are looking at the largest air operation ever assembled against a fire like this," she said.

Helicopters and planes have dumped water on hot spots from above while firefighters have been joined by soldiers and police officers to try to control the fires and carry out rescue missions on the ground.


There were 11 helicopters, six planes, and 2,000 police and military troops working to control the flames on Monday.

At least 11,000 people have been left homeless and the devastating fires have destroyed more than 2,500 homes.

Many have returned to their homes, after being forced to evacuate, to find only ruins.

Via AP Photo/ Luis Hidalgo

A man cries as he sits inside the remains of his home after a forest fire raged past in Valparaiso.

Evacuees have so far gathered in eight shelters in areas close to the coastal city. Aid has come in from across Chile and hundreds of young volunteers have appeared to help rescue efforts.

This has included transporting water bottles to the evacuated as well as using shovels to help people recover items from their former homes.

Valparaíso is particularly known for its colourful homes built on land so steep that many residents have to commute using stairs and cable cars.

Sebastian Villaroel/AFP

But a large number of these homes have been poorly constructed and have been built on land not fit for housing.

Many of these hillside homes were made of wood.

Erica Gonzalez, 74, had to request help from her neighbours when evacuating after the fire burned her wheelchair.

"I was left in the street. My house was completely burned, and that of my daughter a block away," she said.


Maria Elizabeth Diaz is eight months pregnant and was forced to flee to a shelter with her two sons. Like many in the region, she said she was wary of leaving, despite learning the hilltop above her was on fire.

"I didn't want to move because I was afraid they'd rob me, but I had to flee when I saw the fire was coming down the hill," she said.

"I lost everything. Now I've been ordered to rest because I was having contractions. My little one knows that he can't arrive quite yet."