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Fire that destroyed more than 200 homes in Chile believed to be arson, officials say

Click to play video: 'Chile city left devastated after massive wildfire destroys more than 200 homes' Chile city left devastated after massive wildfire destroys more than 200 homes
WATCH: Chile city left devastated after massive wildfire destroys more than 200 homes – Dec 26, 2019

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

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

READ MORE: At least 120 homes affected by wildfire in hills over Chile city, government says

The fire destroyed more than 200 homes and affected more than 1,000 people, Agriculture Minister Antonio Walker said Wednesday evening.

Earlier, Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel 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.

A house burns following the spread of wildfires in Valparaiso, Chile, Dec. 24, 2019. Rodrigo Garrido / REUTERS

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

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Chile declares red alert as forest fires burn over five hectares – Dec 18, 2019

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

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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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