Chile sues Czech tourist for causing forest fire

Chilesues Czech tourist for causing forest fire 

31 March 2005

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Chilean authorities are suing a Czech citizen who accidentally started a fire causing extensive damage to Chilean Patagonia main national park, Torres del Paine. 

Jiri Smitak, 31 was camping when a gas stove he had allegedly illegally introduced overturned and sparked a blaze which took a month to put out and ended destroying 16,000 hectares of the park’s 242,000. 

No sum has been officially mentioned but reliable sources have mentioned five million US dollars compensation. 

The Czech government apologized and sent a delegation of forest experts to Torres del Paine, one of Chile’s highlights. Experts think it will take more than ten years to recover the park from the losses. 

The Chilean State Defence Council filed the suit against Mr. Smitak at the Santiago Court of Appeals seeking reparations for the serious damage, and counts on cooperation from Czech courts. 

Mr. Smitak is an economist who has spent the three of the past ten years travelling the world including Pakistan, China, Tibet, Burma and Thailand. 

Speaking from the town of Brno in Moravia, Smitak father said Jiri was “totally devastated” with what happened and had “apologized”. 

Chilean authorities described the blaze as the worst disaster of its kind for decades. 

However there are conflicting views regarding how the fire actually started and if where Mr. Smitak camped was an unauthorized area. 

Carlos Weber Director of the Chilean National Forestry Corporation said that it took fire fighters from the three armed services, as well as teams throughout Chile and Argentina and from private companies to combat the blaze. 

The use of planes and helicopters was limited because of the strong winds in the region that whipped the fire out of control, which was finally contained a month later. 


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