Valparaiso in Flames

Clarissa Garcia, Staff Writer

On Saturday, vicious fires began at a densely populated hilltop in Valparaiso, a port city in Chile. While the fires have been contained, they have yet to be extinguished. Residents of the area fear that the stiff wind will once again ignite the burning embers and put other neighborhoods at risk. According to President Michelle Bachelet, “the fires have already consumed at least 3,000 homes.”

After this occurrence, Bachelet has vowed to rebuild the port city by formulating a “master plan.” This idea would prohibit rebuilding on hills that cannot be protected from disasters. In other words, the 11,000 victims of devastating fires will have a new place to live. Bachelet states “What we are looking at in terms of reconstruction is how to rebuild in a more orderly manner, better, and more worthy.” 

Deemed the World Heritage City by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Chile has an interesting an architecture, particularly when approaching the forested hills; it has narrow, curvy streets that climb steep hills, making people commute by climbing stairways or riding cable cars. Wooden houses form a natural amphitheater around the nation’s the port city.

But these houses were built illegally, thus providing a valid reason as to why they lack water and sewer connections. Also, their foundations are on dangerous slopes and there is no way for emergency vehicles to reach them in times of crises. Because of that, neighborhoods on twelve of the hills have been burned, leaving images of “denuded, smoking ruins.”

Alongside President Bachelet, local authorities have called for a “smarter rebuild,” but are both afraid and unaware of how to deal with the thousands of evacuees who are determined to set up tents and settle in new shacks amid the rubble of their homes. Nonetheless, President Bachelet outlined the priorities for the issue. At an interview, she assured the public that protecting the people always comes first, and secondly, relocating is a must, meaning if land has to be expropriated, then it will be done.

Valparaiso has remained under military rule since then. About 5,000 firefighters, police, forest rangers, soldiers, sailors, and civil defense workers joined the fight against the fire, which according to the forestry agency, will take about 20 days to be fully extinguished. 

Clarissa Garcia is a Staff Writer for Latino Giant. She is a college freshman currently Undecided at American University, but leaning to the Education field, looking into Secondary Education.

Source: Huffington Post