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Wildfire flares in hot weather


A fire fighting plane dumps water on a forest fire in Valparaiso, Chile (AP)

A fire fighting plane dumps water on a forest fire in Valparaiso, Chile (AP)

A fire fighting plane dumps water on a forest fire in Valparaiso, Chile (AP)

A big coastal wildfire in Chile was briefly contained then flared to life again in hot, windy weather, although it posed no threat to homes in the nearby Pacific ports of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.

Chile's National Emergency Office said the revival was mainly in unpopulated forest along two roads connecting the two cities, and sections of both routes had to be closed.

Earlier yesterday, many of the more than 7,000 people who had been evacuated after flames neared their neighbourhoods the previous night were allowed to return to their homes as the blaze waned in those areas.

About 200 firefighters on the ground and water-dumping helicopters and planes were battling the wildfire, which started on Friday afternoon at an illegal dump and was quickly spread by strong winds. Officials declared a state of emergency.

The fire was blamed for the death of a woman in her 60s who suffered a heart attack. Thirty-two people had been injured, including 19 firefighters, the emergency office said. Five of the firefighters were badly injured, but their lives were not in danger.

Electricity service for about 12,000 people was turned off as a precaution, officials said.

The fire comes nearly one year after a wildfire tore through Valparaiso neighbourhoods, leaping from one hilltop to another. The blaze killed 15 people, injured more than 500 and destroyed nearly 3,000 homes.

No houses were reported damaged from the latest fire, which Chile's Emergency Office estimated had affected about 740 acres (300 hectares) by early yesterday.

The government asked people to avoid travelling to either of the coastal cities, both of which are popular weekend destinations, especially during the Southern Hemisphere's summer months.

Valparaiso, about 50 miles (85 kilometres) north-west of the capital, Santiago, has a vibrant port and is home to Chile's national legislature.

The city, known for its colourful, tightly packed neighbourhoods which hug steep hillsides, was declared a UN World Heritage Site in 2003.