Firefighters tame Patagonian bushfire

Firefighters tame Patagonian bushfire

02 January 2012

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Chile — Hundreds of firefighters in Chile have successfully brought under control a massive blaze that consumed 12,500 hectares of a national park in Patagonia.

Photo: Smoke pours from a wildfire in the Chilean Torres del Paine national park (Reuters: Gobierno Regional Magallanes y Antartica Chile)

“Thanks to the great work of our firemen, and better weather conditions, the Torres del Paine fire is under control,” president Sebastian Pinera said on his Twitter feed.

Vicente Nunez, Chile’s top emergency official, said earlier today that the five-day old inferno had failed to spread over the past 10 hours – a hopeful sign that efforts to contain it appeared to be having success.

Torres del Paine National Park is a 2,400-square-kilometre area of granite-peaked mountains, natural Andean forests, Patagonian steppe and turquoise lakes deep in southern Chile.

Investigators arrested and later freed on bond an Israeli tourist they believe inadvertently set off the massive blaze on Tuesday by failing to properly extinguish a roll of toilet paper he had been burning.

The Israeli, 23-year-old Roten Singer, denies starting the fire and his family accuses the Chilean authorities of making him a scapegoat for the disaster. Singer faces up to 60 days in jail and a fine if found guilty.

“It is very important to me to say that I was not the one who started this fire,” Mr Singer said on CNN Chile.

“They just dumped this on me. I did not think the trial was going to be handled the way it was. I never confessed,” he said, insisting reports to that effect were due to “a translation error.”

Mr Pinera has said the park, visited annually by 100,000 tourists, will remain shut throughout January.

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