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7,000 flee forest fire in Chile

Plumes of smoke from a wild fire rise over Valparaiso, Chile (AP)
Plumes of smoke from a wild fire rise over Valparaiso, Chile (AP)

Firefighters in Chile are working to contain a blaze that has forced 7,000 people to flee their homes near the Pacific coast.

The forest fire began yesterday afternoon at an illegal dump near the city of Valparaiso. It quickly spread in strong winds and authorities declared a state of emergency.

Thousands have been evacuated from neighbourhoods in Valparaiso and deputy interior secretary Mahmud Aleuy said thousands more might need to leave their homes.

The fire is blamed for causing the death of a woman in her 60s who suffered cardiac arrest. Authorities say 15 firefighters are among 21 people injured.

Chile suffered its worst urban fire in the same general area in April last year 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 over 2,900 homes.

The city, 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 north west of the capital Santiago, it has a vibrant port and is home to Chile's national legislature.

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