Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Monday, 28 December 2009

Fires destroy 20 homes near Chile's port of Valparaiso

Fires in the region of Valparaiso in Chile
Forecasters say lower temperatures may help firefighting efforts

Chilean authorities are on high alert in the region of Valparaiso where forest fires have destroyed at least 20 homes, forcing people to flee.

The forest fires have burned some 2,000 hectares of wood and brush in the hills near the port of Valparaiso.

At the weekend, hundreds of residents had to leave as the fires neared their homes.

Officials suspect arson and say a 12-year-old boy could be responsible for at least one of the fires.

Firefighters continued working on Sunday to douse the flames, aided by aeroplane and helicopter crews.

Residents told of how they were given little notice to leave as the fires approached.

"Everything was lost in the fire. I had to leave everything there. I could only save what I have here. The only things are these, everything else burned," one said.

Thick smoke from the nearby fires has enveloped the port of Valparaiso, although forecasters say more humid weather and lower temperatures in the coming days may help the work to put out the fires.

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