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Chile's president declares fire region as disaster area

(Xinhua)

09:10, December 31, 2011

SANTIAGO, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Chile's President Sebastian Pinera on Friday declared Magallanes Region as the disaster area, which was affected by an uncontrolled fire in the Torres del Paine National Parke, in Chilean Patagonia, since three days ago.

Some 8,500 hectares of woodland and scrub, nearly 4 percent of the total area of the park, has already been destroyed by the blaze.

The government has deployed four planes and a helicopter to the disaster area. About 300 firefighters, soldiers and forest rangers were engaged in a desperate effort to bring the fire under control.

Pinera canceled his holidays in Vina del Mar, in central Chile, and had a emergency coordination meeting to face the fire, with Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, Contingency Committee of Defense Ministry, Forest Corporation, the National Emergency Office Onemi and the National Tourism Service.

Pinera said that weather conditions have been very hard. They faced a zone of large winds, with changing directions, which makes it difficult to fight the fire. Smoke is covering all the affected zone and also makes it difficult to have precise information about what is happening.

They decided to declare Disaster Area in the affected region. Agriculture Minister Luis Mayol and Environment Minister Maria Ignacia Benitez will travel to the zone to coordinate the operations to control the sinisterness, said Pinera.

In the emergency meeting, it was agreed to officially ask governments from Argentina, Australia and the United States for cooperation and help to control the fire.

Torres del Paine National Park, which is located at 3,000 kilometers south of Santiago, has a surface of about 230,000 hectares of native species.

Blows of more than 120 kilometers per hour are one of the main obstacles in the fighting of the fire. Members of the Armed Forces and emergency units from Argentina are helping to suffocate the sinisterness.

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