Fire Rages Near Uruguay Beach Resort

Fire Rages Near Uruguay Beach Resort

2 January 2009

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Uruguay — A forest fire that began near a seaside resort some 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of this capital was making it difficult for travelers to reach Punta del Este, Uruguay’s best-known tourist destination, officials said Thursday.

Two teams of firefighters were working to control the blaze, which, due to strong winds and a severe drought, was covering several hectares (acres).

Uruguay is suffering from one of its worst-ever droughts and authorities in recent days have repeatedly reminded people that building fires for cooking or burning garbage is prohibited due to the risk of forest fires.

The blaze affecting a forested area near the Balneario Argentino resort was not posing a threat to homes but was burning on both sides of the road that leads to Uruguay’s eastern coast.

That road is being used by large numbers of Uruguayans and foreigners at the start of the South American country’s summer holiday season. According to highway police, between 1,500 and 1,800 vehicles passed through the toll booths on that road every hour on Wednesday and Thursday.

From Wednesday through midday Thursday, the National Fire Department battled 142 blazes of different sizes, the spokesman for that institution, Carlos Nicola, said.

Close to 80 of those blazes were forest fires and more than 30 were caused by fireworks set off during New Year’s Eve festivities, Nicola said.

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