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Fight continues against wildfires at Chilean port

VALPARAISO, Chile--With all of Valparaiso under military rule early Tuesday, 5,000 firefighters, police, forest rangers, soldiers, sailors and civil defense workers joined in a mammoth fight against wildfires licking around the hilltop shantytowns of this picturesque port city.

Helicopters and airplanes dropped water on the flames and smoldering ruins of some of the poor neighborhoods throughout Monday, the third day since flames first erupted in a forested ravine on the outskirts of Valparaiso and then were quickly spread by strong winds that scattered glowing embers into slums.

Navy officer Julio Leiva said the death toll rose to 15 Monday, with the discovery of another body in the wreckage. More than 500 people had been treated at hospitals, mostly for smoke inhalation.

An estimated 11,000 people were homeless as the toll of destroyed homes rose to more than 2,500. A contingent of sailors in riot gear stood ready to evacuate 700 more families whose homes could be lost if the winds shifted.

The fires have been so hot they created their own fierce winds, spreading flames that consumed a few entire neighborhoods

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Volunteers help after a huge fire devastated an area of Valparaiso, Chile on Monday, April 14.(AFP)

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