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Chile city in state of emergency over wildfires

AFP logoAFP 1/15/2017
Local residents live in tents while they work to rebuild after the damage caused by the January 2 forest fire in Puertas Negras, Valparaiso, Chile, on January 12, 2017 © Provided by AFP Local residents live in tents while they work to rebuild after the damage caused by the January 2 forest fire in Puertas Negras, Valparaiso, Chile, on January 12, 2017

Chile on Saturday declared a local state of emergency over wildfires plaguing the landmark tourist-draw city of Valparaiso.

The hilly Pacific city, part of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been put under military authority to coordinate firefighting and government asset deployment efforts.

Located 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of the capital Santiago, Valparaiso is the seat of the Chilean Congress and spans 40 hills, offering stunning views of the sea.

Thousands of tourists stroll its narrow cobblestone streets and ride cable cars up the steep hills each year.

At the moment, 19,000 hectares (73 square miles) of mostly woodlands have been lost, officials said.

The city was a famous port of call in its heyday, from the mid-19th century to the early 20th.

But the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 brought its glory days to an abrupt end.

Today, it relies heavily on tourism, and living standards are lower than average in Chile.

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