Chilean president says Valparaiso fires may have been set intentionally

SANTIAGO – Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said on Thursday that there are indications that the fires in Valparaiso, which have destroyed at least 245 houses, may have been set intentionally.

“There is some evidence that this could have been an intentional fire. If this is true, it would be extraordinarily serious,” the president said after visiting Valparaiso, where he set up an emergency committee to deal with the fires.

He said the police and the national prosecutor’s office would work together to find out the cause of the fires so that “the people will be identified and prosecuted with the full force of the law.”

Pinera said that more than 90 percent of fires in Chile are caused by human activity, with more than one third of them started intentionally.

The president also said that all the three fires in Valparaiso are under control and will soon be extinguished.

According to the latest report from the Chilean National Office for Emergency, the fires have destroyed about 132.6 hectares of vegetation in Valparaiso and caused damage that has yet to be assessed to around 245 houses in the areas of Cerro Rocuant and Cerro San Roque.

Pinera announced that a housing subsidy program for those affected families who are going to buy new homes or rebuild the ones that were destroyed will take effect in early 2020.

Chile’s first lady, Cecilia Morel, told the local press that she plans to hold a Christmas dinner with the affected families “as soon as conditions permit.”

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