Fire in Valparaiso
As you may be aware by now, our sister city Valparaiso is suffering from a large fire up in the hills. It started on Saturday while we were still up in La Serena and we heard about it because Cristobal, our guide for the day, was watching the news at one point while we were on our own. We got back to Viña del Mar yesterday (Sunday) around 5:30, and on walking back to our apartment could see the smoke.
The fire apparently started Saturday in a forested area on the top of one of the hills that make up most of Valparaiso. Even more than Viña, Valparaiso has a very small flat area right around the port called La Plan, and everything else is hills. While the good news is that the historic part of the city has been spared, the bad news is that it is the poor who are being most affected by this. As of this afternoon there have been 12 deaths, 12,400 people evacuated and 2000 homes destroyed.
Yesterday was very hot and there was an offshore breeze which helped spread the fire inland and up the hills. Today is cooler and less windy, although they expect winds to pick up. Hopefully they’re making progress as we’re seeing much less smoke and the air is clear. Tomorrow is supposed to be foggy in the morning which I guess is good and bad. Good because the moisture will help, but bad because they can mostly only fight the fire from the air, using helicopters, due to the lack of any infrastructure in the affected areas.
We’re safe here in Viña from that fire, though we’ve had our own here. But we have been affected. Our building already had a sign up in the elevator asking for donations when we got back yesterday. Today we got an e-mail from Joel’s school that two people who work in the cafeteria lost their houses and Cecile’s classes were cancelled (the main campus of her university is in Valpo though she works here). We’ll be doing a separate grocery shopping to pick up supplies to donate.
We don’t know how much coverage this is getting in the U.S., but the BBC has been a good source of information, and if you want to keep up with it from the Chilean side, Onemi.cl is the Chilean emergency management information site. As always, if you go there using Chrome, it will translate for you automatically.
We went up to our roof to look at the fire at sunset yesterday, and there’s definitely a tragic beauty to it. The fire is somewhere behind the first set of hills we can see and pretty much all the clouds are fire-related, otherwise it would be clear.