Uruguayan authorities evacuate tourists from forest fire

Uruguayan authorities evacuate tourists from forest fire

7 January 2009

published by news.xinhuanet.com

Uruguay — Authorities on Tuesday evacuated 2,000 tourists from a resort in southeastern Uruguay because of a forest fire.

Daniel Pilar Altez, secretary of the management of Rocha department in southeastern Uruguay, said the fire near the La Esmeralda resort threatens about 500,000 houses.

Firefighters and Air Force helicopters battled the blaze as authorities evacuated the tourists, officials with the Emergency Committee of Rocha said.

Smoke from the blaze, blamed on a fire built by a woodsman to cook food, was visible from about 800 km away, witnesses said.

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.

Carlos Nicola, spokesman for the National Fire Department, said Monday that firefighters received about 70 calls for forest fires in the first three days of this year.

“We put out some 1,260 fires in fields and hills in December,” he said.

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