Last weekend a horrific fire tore through the residential hillsides of busy port town Valparaiso leaving 15 dead, hundreds injured and over 12,500 people homeless. The important city, which shares Great Wine Capital status alongside neighbouring wine region Casablanca, was ravaged with three days of fierce fires exacerbated by strong winds and dry weather, which destroyed over 2900 homes and left 1150 hectares devastated.
Fortunately the fires did not spread as far as the vineyards of Casablanca, which in some cases are only a few kilometres from the city, although the impact has been felt throughout the region. “No vineyard or winery has been directly affected, but some of the workers that live in Valparaiso lost everything,” explained Bernadita Zamara Fonck from the Casablanca Valley association. “The close future doesn’t look too positive… While many affected in Valparaiso didn’t lose much, what they did lose was everything they had. Those that were affected were people with very scarce resources.”
Rescue efforts are concentrated in looking for any survivors in amongst the rubble, putting out the remaining fires and bringing aid to those left homeless. “Community support has been intense, and the porteños [people of Valparaiso] didn’t even wait a day to put themselves into action to help,” said Bernardita, “every day there are long lines of young people and adults to receive tetanus vaccines so they can directly go to the affected hillsides to help people rebuild their homes.”
Donations to help with aid in the area can be given to Chilean Red Cross and the Municipality of Casablanca and Vineyard Association of Casablanca. The Harvest Festival for Casablanca will also now be held on 26 and 27 April, and proceeds from a wine auction and donations will go to rebuilding the city and helping the victims of the fire.
“This is a tremendous tragedy for Valparaiso and the many people affected living there,” said Claudio Cilveti, Wines of Chile Director. “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the region, and we hope that this beautiful port city will soon recover and take back strength as one of the world capitals of wine.”
By Amanda Barnes
Photo courtesy of Sandra Segall / The Santiago Times