Colombia’s Foreign Ministry pledged support to victims of Valparaiso’s “worst tragedy in recorded history,” a fire which has destroyed 2,000 homes and displaced 10, 000 residents, local media reported Monday.
In a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Monday, the Colombian government expressed solidarity with the people of Chile following the devastating fire in Valparaiso, a port city 75 miles west of Santiago de Chile. The Foreign Ministry also pledged to “provide all the support considered necessary to attend to our sister nation, in order to overcome the devastating effects of this terrible disaster.”
Twelve deaths have been recorded so far, and approximately 500 people are being treated for injuries including severe smoke inhalation. However, the number of recorded casualties may rise as forest firefighters, urban firefighters, police, Army and Navy struggle to control the fire, and return to remove debris from the destroyed homes.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared the port city of Valparaiso a disaster area on Sunday, sending Navy units to patrol the city streets, reported El Colombiano newspaper.
The fire began Saturday afternoon in a forested area of Valparaiso, and quickly spread to hills where thousands of poor families have built homes without legal permits.
The communities were “filled with weeds and urban waste,” General Julio Pineda, Valparaiso chief of police told local reporters on Sunday. He added that cross-winds and unusually high temperatures contributed to the breadth and intensity of the fire.
On Monday, about 1,300 firefighters, crews from the National Forestry Corporation ( CONAF), with support from a dozen helicopters and planes, continued fighting the fire. Strong winds have caused resurgences of fire in areas that had been previously controlled.
According to authorities, the threat of resurgence will remain for at least 20 days.
Interior Minister of Chile Rodrigo Peñailillo told EFE that about 1,200 victims are being housed in eight shelters set up in schools and parishes.
- Sigue el “infierno” para los habitantes de Valparaiso, Chile (El Colombiano)
- Colombia ofrece ayuda humanitaria a Chile por incendio en Valparaíso (Caracol Radio)
- Descartan intencionalidad en incendio que afecta a Valparaíso (El Universal)
- Confirman que ya son 12 los muertos y Bachelet suspende viaje a Argentina (EFE)