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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 March, 2005, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Chile to sue Czech man over blaze
Fires in Torres del Paine
The park is famous for its outstanding natural beauty
Chilean authorities are suing a Czech citizen for unspecified damages after he accidentally started a fire, causing extensive damage to a national park.

Jiri Smitak, 31, had been camping in the Torres del Paine park when a gas stove he was illegally using overturned, sparking the blaze.

The devastating fire destroyed 16,000 hectares and took a month to put out.

The sum sought was not specified in the suit, but Chile's government has said previously it would be at least $5m.

Mr Smitak says he feels great remorse, but stresses he does not have much money, and may never be able to pay the compensation demanded by Chile.

Czech cooperation

The 240,000-hectare (593,000-acre) park in Patagonia is one of Chile's highlights.

Experts say it will take more than 10 years for the park to recover.

The Czech government has apologised to Chile and sent a delegation of forest experts to the area.

It also pledged some money for reforestation, although it has not specified how much.

The tourist himself left Chile after paying a $200 fine.

After returning to his country he then donated an extra $1,000 (524) to Chile's national parks.

But Chilean authorities said that was not enough.

Chile's State Defence Council on Monday filed a suit against the tourist at the Santiago Court of Appeals, seeking reparations for the "serious damage" caused to the park.

The legal action against Mr Smitak will rely on the co-operation of the Czech courts.


SEE ALSO:
Czechs offer aid after Chile fire
04 Mar 05 |  Americas
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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