Fire Forces Chile to Close National Park

Fire Forces Chile to Close National Park

30 December 2011

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Chile — Chilean officials closed the Torres del Paine national park as a fire that has razed thousands of hectares of forest and grasslands in Patagonia entered a fourth day.

More than 300 government and military personnel from Chile and neighboring Argentina and several aircraft have been deployed to bring the blaze under control, according to the Chilean emergency service’s website.

The fire has consumed an estimated 8,500 hectares (21,000 acres), President Sebastian Pinera said today in comments broadcast on national television. The 180,000-hectare park in Chile’s far south is famous for its vertical granite peaks and is home to Andean condors, pumas and endangered huemul deer. Winds of 90 kilometers (56 miles) an hour forecast for today are fanning the flames, the emergency agency, known as Onemi, said.

“The government has taken and will continue to take all the measures necessary to confront this real catastrophe,” Pinera said.

Chile has sought help from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as authorities in Australia, the president said. All 400 visitors have been evacuated from the park, one of Chile’s top tourist destinations, he said.

“We are facing a highly complex situation, with extreme conditions mainly due to the topography, strong winds and highly combustible vegetation,” Onemi Director Vicente Nunez said today in comments published on the website.

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