Wildfire in Chilean city kills 11, consumes 500 homes

Chile wildfire 041314

(CNN) — The death toll from a wildfire that swept through homes on Chile’s Pacific coast rose to 11 on Sunday after strong winds fanned the blaze into the city of Valparaiso, authorities reported.

The blaze has been blamed for consuming more than 500 homes over nearly 2,000 acres, according to Chile’s National Emergency Office. More than 500 firefighters from seven provinces, some in helicopters, battled the fire, but the wind hampered their efforts to create firebreaks, an official said.

“It’s been one of the worst fires in history,” said Fernando Reseio, the fire superintendent in the nearby suburb of Vina del Mar.

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 flames.

The network reported that the sweeping fire is endangering thousands more homes, and authorities have evacuated more than 3,000 residents.

Flames could be seen blazing through many houses in the urban area, located about 50 miles from the capital, Santiago. There were plans to evacuate inmates at Valparaiso prison as a preventive measure, Mayor Jorge Castro said.

Valparaiso is under a red alert, said emergency office spokesman Ricardo Toro. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of emergency, which legally allows armed forces to get involved.

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