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posted: 4/19/2014 10:56 AM

Forest fire destroys 150 homes in Chilean city

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Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Authorities say a large forest fire that is covering the Chilean city of Valparaiso in smoke has destroyed at least 150 homes and is forcing evacuations.

President Michelle Bachelet has declared the port city a catastrophe zone, which puts the Armed Forces in charge of maintaining order and evacuating thousands of people affected by the smoke and flames.

Valparaiso Mayor Jorge Castro told Chile's National Television that while there have been no deaths or serious injuries, some people are being choked by the smoke. He said refuges for those forced to flee the fire have been set up.

Castro said Saturday night that "Valparaiso is without electricity at the moment and this means the flame column is creating a Dante-esque panorama and is advancing in an apparently uncontrollable manner."

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