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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 12:50 GMT
Czechs offer aid after Chile fire
By Clinton Porteous
BBC News, Santiago

Fires in Torres del Paine
The fires in Torres del Paine are now under control
A Czech Republic delegation has arrived in Chile and offered to help pay for the restoration of the fire-ravaged Torres del Paine National Park.

The blaze was accidentally started by a Czech tourist last month who was illegally using a gas stove.

He was fined just $200 (104) and allowed to leave the country.

The Chilean government has estimated that it will take at least 10 years for the park to recover at a cost of more than $5m (2.6m).

The fire has been burning for more than two weeks, but is now under control.

Two senior officials from the Czech Republic have held meetings with the Chilean authorities and will go on to inspect the fire damage in the Torres del Paine National Park.

They brought a letter of apology from the Czech government and an offer to send forestry experts and - at a later stage - money, though they said it was too early to say how much.

Grateful

The delegation met Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker who told the BBC it was a great gesture.

"There have been destroyed 15,000 hectares of this natural reserve which is one of the beauties of Chile, but also South America," he said.

"And we appreciate very much the reaction of the government of the Czech Republic and of course we have accepted this aid, this help."

When the fire broke out there was great anger in Chile against the Czech tourist who started it.

However, there is now a mixture of admiration and surprise at the attitude of the Czech government.

And the 31-year-old tourist has told the Chilean media, via email, that he feels great remorse. He said he gave an extra $1,000 (524) to the Chilean national parks and hopes to give more money in the future.


SEE ALSO:
Firefighters battle Chile blaze
22 Feb 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Chile
09 Dec 04 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Czech Republic
26 Jan 05 |  Country profiles


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