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Chile blaze: 16 dead, over 10,000 evacuated as president decries 'terrible tragedy'

Published on Apr 14, 2014 1:11 AM

VALPARAïSO, Chile (AFP) - At least 16 people were confirmed dead and more than 10,000 evacuated on Sunday after a huge fire tore through Chile's historic port city of Valparaiso, officials said.

The blaze, which started in nearby woods on Saturday, gutted 500 homes as a wall of flames advanced on the city of 270,000, famed for its Unesco-listed center.

"It is a terrible tragedy, without doubt the worst fire in the history of Valparaiso," President Michelle Bachelet declared after arriving in the city to oversee the emergency response to the disaster. "Families have not only lost their homes and their possessions but also their family memories," she lamented during a tour of the worst-hit areas.

The cause of the inferno remains under investigation. Ms Bachelet has declared the area a disaster zone, allowing the armed forces to assist in the relief efforts.

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