CHILE – A wildfire was raging in a highly populated area of Chile early Sunday after killing two people and consuming more than 500 homes, officials said. At least one more person has been injured in the flames that have swept over at least 660 acres, said Chile’s National Emergency Office (ONEMI). Strong winds fanned the flames into Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, two adjacent cities on the Pacific coast, ONEMI said. “It’s been one of the worst fires in history,” said Vina del Mar fire superintendent, Fernando Reseio, who has been a firefighter for 30 years. Many rows of flames could be seen blazing through houses in the urban area located about 50 miles from the capital city of Santiago. More than 500 firefighters from seven provinces, some in helicopters, are battling the fire, an official said. But the wind is hampering their efforts to create firebreaks.
At least 500 homes have been destroyed in Valparaiso alone, Mayor Jorge Castro said. The city will evacuate its prison, which contains 2,000 inmates, as a preventive measure, he said. Valparaiso is under a red alert, said ONEMI spokesmand Ricardo Toro. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of emergency, which legally allows armed forces to get involved. It took the fire just six hours to devour the homes. In images broadcast by CNN sister network CNN Chile, residents could be seen fleeing the fires. The network reported that the sweeping fire is endangering thousands of homes. Authorities have evacuated more than 3,000 residents. –CNN
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