Chile Fires Under Control, Clean-Up Efforts Begin


The wildfires that devastated poor neighborhoods in Valparaiso, Chile, are under control Thursday. Fifteen people died, more than 11,000 lost their homes, and at least three churches were destroyed, officials said.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet promised to rebuild but with tighter building codes.

"We think this is a tremendous tragedy, but ... it is also a tremendous opportunity to do things right," Bachelet said in an interview with radio station El Diario de Cooperativa.

"What we're looking at in terms of reconstruction is how to rebuild in a more orderly manner, better and more worthy" of Valparaiso's status as a World Heritage City, she added.

Firefighters say it may take three weeks to extinguish the embers, which the wind could spread to other neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, volunteers joined homeless residents to clean up the communities where flames consumed more than 3,000 homes.

In addition, Christians are working to provide meals and supplies to those who lost their homes.

Costa Rican missionary Jonathan Chinchilla said the approach of winter, being below the equator, makes the relief effort more urgent.

"Right now, many people are going to Valparaiso go to clean, to help the people, to pray, to bring clothes, food," he said.

"Right now, we are going into winter, so it's so cold right now here so we need more clothes for the people to not get frozen there because right now it's really, really cold," he said.

Churches from around the country are collecting blankets and other supplies for the thousands of families left homeless by the Valparaiso fire.

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