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A man looks at the destruction caused by a forest fire at the Rocuant hill, in Valparaiso, Chile, on Dec. 25, 2019.

PABLO ROJAS MARADIAGA/AFP/Getty Images

Helicopters on Wednesday dropped water on the outskirts of the Chilean port city of Valparaiso to extinguish a fire that destroyed about 200 homes.

Dozens of people living in the city’s Rocuant and San Roque hills sifted through the ruins of their homes after the fire, fanned by strong winds, swept through their neighbourhoods on Tuesday. Residents had been evacuated and there were no reports of casualties.

Some 200 homes were destroyed, according to a preliminary count announced by Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel said. He said authorities believe arson caused the blaze and urged people to report any suspicious activity.

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“We’re not certain, but everything indicates that yesterday’s fire was intentional, and began in an area quite close to the homes,” said Ezio Passadore, emergency manager for Valparaiso.

The fire was doused in urban areas but remains “active” in the woods, said Ricardo Toro, head of Chile’s national emergency office.

Many homes in the low-income neighbourhoods where the fire occurred don’t have running water and get their supply from tankers a couple of times a week.

Wildfires have affected parts of Valparaiso several times in the last month as Chile contends with its worst drought on record.

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