State of Catastrophe declared as thousands flee Chile forest fire

State of Catastrophe declared as thousands flee Chile forest fire

Thousands of people have been evacuated as a serious forest fire spread quickly on Chile's coast and threatened to reach the nearby port cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.

Officials said the fire began at an illegal garbage dump in the afternoon and flames were spread quickly by high winds, leading authorities to declare a State of Catastrophe in the area.

Deputy interior secretary Mahmud Aleuy said that about 4,500 people in six neighbourhoods had been evacuated as flames advanced nearby and that an additional 10,000 might need to be moved.

The interior ministry said a 67-year-old woman died of cardio-respiratory causes, and firefighters reported at least 10 people injured.

Chile's Emergency Office estimated that about 300 hectares (about 740 acres) had been affected by late yesterday.

Chile suffered its worst urban fire in the same general area, in April 2014, when a raging blaze that started as a forest fire leaped from hilltop to hilltop in Valparaiso, killing 15 people, injuring more than 500 and destroying more than 2,900 homes.

The city, which was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2003, is known for colourful neighbourhoods hugging hills so steep that people use stairs rather than streets.

About 75 miles (120 kilometres) northwest of the capital, Santiago, it has a vibrant port and is home to Chile's national legislature.

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