Chilean President Michelle Bachelet promised on Monday to rebuild “with all the resources necessary” the Pacific port city of Valparaiso, which was devastated by a huge and still active fire that has killed 13 people and destroyed 2,200 homes.
“I want to express my full solidarity and that of the government with the people and families who are being affected,” she said.
Bachelet, who on Sunday headed an emergency committee meeting in Valparaiso, a city of 250,000 located 120 kilometers (about 75 miles) west of Santiago, said Monday that “an enormous effort is being made to control this fire and have the help that is necessary in the region.”
“But also to find in other regions and outside Chile the help in terms of aircraft that will allow us to control a fire ... of never-before-seen dimensions,” she added.
Some 1,300 firefighters backed by a dozen helicopters and tanker planes continue to battle the flames, which broke out anew in the neighborhoods of Pajonal and Cerro Ramaditas, where they destroyed some 250 more homes.
Chile’s Conaf forestry service forecast that putting the fire out could take more than 20 days.
The geographic location of Valparaiso, which lies on a bay surrounded by 42 hills on the Pacific coast, is making the firefighting efforts more difficult, not to mention the heavy winds and unusually high temperatures for the Southern Hemisphere autumn.
As the initial government aid begins arriving, in Santiago and many other cities authorities and social organizations are collecting food and other items to send to the people in need.
Thousands of volunteers, especially young people, have thrown themselves into organizing and distributing the humanitarian aid and even helping local residents to remove the still-smoking wreckage of their homes.
This is the second tragedy to hit Chile in less than a month. On April 1, a magnitude-8.2 earthquake shook the country’s far north, killing six people and damaging thousands of homes.