Valparaíso: City of Fires, Earthquakes

Apr 13 2014, 6:52pm CDT | by

Valparaíso: City of Fires, Earthquakes
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

Valparaíso, one of the oldest cities in Chile, is being savaged by a fire that has already killed 11 people and left thousands without a home.

The fire started on Saturday afternoon in a forest on the highest part of the city, quickly moving down the city’s hilly landscape and destroying everything in its way. Although firemen believed they had the flames under control early on Sunday, recent reports say that in some places the fire has picked up again helped by windy weather.

Porteños, as locals are known, have lived through fires and earthquakes for centuries. Once the most important port on the Pacific Ocean in the Americas, Valparaíso was home to one of the country’s deadliest earthquakes in 1906. Families moved north and settled in a new city, Viña del Mar, after seeing their homes destroyed by the earthquake that was years later estimated to be of 8.4 magnitude. Less than a mile away from Valparaíso, Viña is under alert today as the fire could move there next.

Valparaíso has also seen fires such as the one which less than a year ago destroyed most of the landmark San Francisco church, just after it had been renovated. Old sailors had a special link to that church; when they saw it from the sea, they used to say “Pancho a la vista” (Pancho on the sight). Pancho is the nickname for Francisco in Spanish.

The latest fire is the biggest since 1953 when several explosions caused by fireworks on New Year’s Eve ended with a death toll of 50 people.

Today porteños who lost their homes are relying on the government and thousands of volunteers who have provided them with food and shelter.

 
 

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