Chile forest fire: Thousands flee homes as deadly blaze spreads to threaten Valparaiso and Vina del Mar

At least one woman has died and dozens of people have been injured so far

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The Independent US

Thousands of people have fled their homes in Chile as a deadly forest fire threatens to reach the port cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.

Photos showed endless clouds of smoke above the seaside towns reflecting the orange glow of the spreading flames.

Officials believe the blaze started at an illegal rubbish tip on Friday afternoon and was fanned by high winds, moving at a rate that forced authorities to declare a state of emergency in the area.

Chile’s deputy Interior Secretary, Mahmud Aleuy said that about 4,500 people in six towns had been evacuated as flames advanced and that an additional 10,000 residents might need to be moved.

His ministry said a 67-year-old woman died of heart and breathing-related causes and firefighters had reported at least 10 people injured by early this morning.

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

The country suffered its worst urban fire in the same 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 in some of its poorest areas.

Entire neighbourhoods were razed to the ground and many of the victims were found in the burned-down homes they reportedly refused to leave.

Recovery from the disaster was still continuing when the new fire struck.Chile-fires7.jpg

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

Additional reporting by agencies