VALPARAÍSO – Fires destroyed at least 200 houses on Christmas Eve in Valparaíso. According to authorities, the fires were intentionally set. Several fires are still not under control.
On Rocuant and San Roque Hill in Valparaíso, several fires have destroyed at least 150 hectares and, according to the latest government update, at least 200 houses. A State of Emergency has been declared in the area and fire brigades from Viña del Mar and other nearby municipalities are assisting the hundreds of firefighters from Valparaíso.
The first fires were reported around 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 24, and spread quickly due to an unfortunate mix of high temperatures and coastal winds combined with the severe drought in the region. The power was cut as precautionary measures for nearly 100,000 Valparaíso residents and in several communes water was cut and diverted to supply the fire brigades. Two schools near the affected hills were also set up as shelters for the victims of the fires.
🔴 Hemos solicitado que se investigue posible intencionalidad de nuevo incendio en #Valparaíso, que ha causado tanto daño. Vecinos grabaron y denuncian presencia de personas y vehículo justo cuando se provoca uno de los focos. Máximo rigor de la Ley de comprobarse la acusación. pic.twitter.com/VdObVo52Zw
— Francisco Chahuán (@chahuan) December 24, 2019
Arson in Valparaíso
Footage on social media indicates that the fires were arson. In one video, just as a fire is burning on one hill, a fire is set on another hill by a man who runs back to his white pickup truck. Authorities have opened an investigation and Mayor Jorge Sharp has demanded that those responsible pay for their crimes.
At a press conference, Sharp said, “Valparaíso did not have a happy Christmas yesterday or today. Someone, whether it is one person or a group of people, wants to see Valparaíso destroyed.” As of 4:00 p.m. on Dec. 25, fire brigades were still working to control the fires.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.