Latin America & Caribbean

Deadly Chile forest fires spread

Firefighters in Chile are tackling dozens of forest fires which have killed one person and destroyed 230 sq km (57,000 acres) of land in the southern and central regions.

A 75-year-old man died in Bio Bio after he refused to leave his home.

Firefighters said they had managed to contain four out of six blazes in the Torres del Paine National Park.

An Israeli tourist detained on Saturday has denied a charge of causing the park fire through negligence.

President Sebastian Pinera said Chile was in a "situation of extreme vulnerability".

He said that on Sunday emergency services were battling 48 separate fires, 15 of which were not yet under control.

The president said almost 130 sq km (32,000 acres) had been burned in the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.

Stiffer penalties

He announced that parts of the park would re-open on Wednesday to minimise disruption to tourism and local businesses.

The Israeli tourist could face up to 60 days in prison and a fine of around $300 (£190), if found guilty.

President Pinera has proposed increasing the penalties for anyone who causes forest fires, be it intentionally or negligently.

In the Bio Bio region, fire destroyed more than 100 homes and a plant making wood panels.

More than 500 firefighters have been deployed to stem the blaze.

The BBC's Gideon Long in Santiago says that Chile always suffers forest fires during the southern hemisphere summer but that a drought has made 2011 a particularly bad year.

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