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Chile's Valparaiso Wildfire Could be Worst in City's History [VIDEO]

Apr 14, 2014 01:27 PM EDT
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A wildfire burning in the hills of Valparaiso, Chile, has killed at least 12 people and consumed at least 1,000 homes, according to the latest news reports.

Approximately 10,000 have been displaced in the coastal community, where the fire has raged since Saturday, being spread by strong winds across the city's iconic hilltops.

The blaze has reduced at least six neighborhoods to ashes, according to The Associated Press.

"It's a tremendous tragedy. This could be the worst fire in the city's history," said President Michelle Bachelet, who declared the a catastrophe zone and placed the Chilean military in charge of maintaining order, according to the AP.

Initial reports indicated that at least 16 people had been killed in the fire, but accidental double counting of some names has lowered the number of confirmed dead to 12, the AP said.

Fire crews are working to contain the blaze and they have made some progress, but the size of the fire and unpredictable weather have complicated the containment effort.

More than 1,200 firefighters are battling the 2,000-acre fire, according to TIME

"If the temperature and wind keep raising, the fires are likely to start again," Israel Fire Brigade Captain Reinaldo Leal said in an interview with the website I Love Chile.

"The weather in Valparaíso changes all the time and that doesn't help," Leal said. "However, I have been working as a firemen for 30 years and we never experienced something like this. Some hills have been completely razed."

Valparaíso's unique landscape makes it more vulnerable to fire than an average city. Forty-two hilltops encompass the city, and people living on the hills often rely on staircases and cable cars to access their homes. Accessing the narrow corridors by firetruck is impossible in some cases, the AP reported.

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