Over 245 properties have been destroyed, and 700 people left penniless after a forest fire burned through a low-income region of the Chilean seaside city of Valparaiso on Christmas Eve.
President Sebastian Pinera stated Thursday during a tour of the affected zone that there was proof the fire had been ignited intentionally.
“I deeply regret that what ought to have been night, a night of peace, ought to have been so deeply altered by this tragedy,” he said.
Valparaiso, known for its colorful wooden houses, is well-liked among vacationers in the South American country.
The fire started in a forest area on the outskirts of town and spread towards the coast, reaching the Rocuant and San Roque hills, a jumble of agreements that overlook the city.
Inhabitants fled their homes moments before having their Christmas Eve dinner, some losing all their belongings and even pets.
Marta Pinto, 78, stated her granddaughter noticed the fire coming down the hill and sounded the alarm
Juan Silva Suazo said he had lost his home and all the possessions he spent 45 years accumulating.
Chile´s forestry commission stated the fire was fully contained at midday on Thursday with the help of nine firefighting groups, five helicopters, and two water vehicles. A total of 132 hectares of crops were destroyed, it added.
Agriculture Minister Antonio Walker stated the high temperatures at the peak of the Southern Hemisphere summer, which operates from December to March, and dry conditions attributable to a historic drought presently blighting Chile had given fertile ground for the fire.