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Chile's deadly wildfires extinguished

Aerial view after the forest fires in Valparaiso region (Javier TORRES)
Aerial view after the forest fires in Valparaiso region (Javier TORRES)

Firefighters said Wednesday they had extinguished all wildfires in Chile's coastal region of Valparaiso, where flames razed entire communities and left 131 dead.

"The forest emergency that began on February 2 is considered to have been overcome," said the fire department in the seaside resort town Vina del Mar, one of the worst-hit areas.

Under a summer heatwave, almost 2,000 firefighters fought the blaze, finally quenching the remaining embers at midnight on Tuesday.

The inferno tore through crowded hilltop communities and the country's biggest botanical gardens, leaving in its wake charred cars, debris-strewn streets, and thousands of homeless now living in tents.

"There is still a lot to do, this is just the beginning," said Katherine Murillo, a 31-year-old Ecuadorian woman, who installed a tent on the land where she plans to build a new home.

In total, some 15,000 homes have been affected in the Valparaiso region, according to authorities.

The fires are the deadliest natural disaster to befall Chile since a 2010 earthquake and tsunami which killed around 500 people.

The origin of the fires has yet to be determined, however President Gabriel Boric's government suspects they may have been started deliberately.

"There are people who are trying to light fires, we are going to find those miserable people and we are going to put them behind bars," he said on a visit to the region on Tuesday.

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